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3. Delta Blues Museum

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Delta Blues Museum

Left to right: Travis Calvin, Shelley Ritter, and Mrs. Obama. Click image for a larger view.

The blues is a vibrant, living, and uniquely American art form with deep roots in Coahoma County, Mississippi, and masterful expression from the artists who lived there. Many consider the distinctive Delta style the most elemental blues form. The Delta Blues Museum celebrates the history, showcases live performances, and nurtures the next generation of blues musicians. Participants in the museum’s popular music classes are from every segment of the community – ages five to over 60, and reflect diverse ethnic and economic backgrounds – and a travelling trunk exhibit inspires blues appreciation across the nation.

"Being a National Medal recipient will forever symbolize the important role the Delta Blues Museum plays in not only our local community but the global music community as a whole. I am honored to accept this award, the highest national honor bestowed upon museums and libraries for service," said Shelley Ritter, executive director, Delta Blues Museum. "We anticipate this recognition will significantly enhance the Delta Blues Museum’s ability to honor our many talented blues musicians, to educate and engage future generations in our local, living contribution to the music world, and to preserve the history and heritage of our community and its vast contribution to this important American art form."

Community Member: A challenging neighborhood was the driving force behind Travis Calvin’s mom signing up her five children for the museum’s Arts and Education Program as a safe and positive place to go after school. Initially serving as a refuge to keep the children off the streets, the program evolved into something much more significant – a place for developing talented blues musicians in the Calvin family. Travis chose the guitar when he was 8 years old, and through classes at the museum, has come to master it. Student has become teacher, and now, he helps other children discover and enjoy this truly American art form. Poised to graduate from Delta State University next month with a Bachelor of Science in Music Industry Studies, Travis reflects, "I wouldn’t be where I am today and pursuing my current career path had I not signed up for the Arts and Education Program 15 years ago. The museum provided me with invaluable opportunities to begin playing music at a young age." 

Praise for Delta Blues Museum:

This award will shine well-deserved attention on the Delta Blues Museum and the important musical and cultural influences the blues have had on our nation. I am proud of this museum and Mississippi for presenting the soul of the blues to the world.
U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (Miss.)

Mississippi has a rich and storied legacy as the birthplace of the blues. The Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale takes great pride in preserving our unique musical heritage and sharing it with the world. The National Medal for Museum and Library Service award is a testament to the museum’s outstanding work. I congratulate the Mississippians who have ensured our state’s role in American music is recognized and honored.
U.S. Senator Roger Wicker (Miss.)

There could not be a more fitting institution than our very own Delta Blues Museum to receive this honor. The Museum reflects the deep history and culture of Mississippi. It not only plays a vital role in our community, but our nation. Libraries and museums fuel the imagination and the intellect. The museum will continue to serve as a destination for visitors from across our state and the world.
U.S. Representative Bennie Thompson (Miss.)

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