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Orientation for MS Delta Cultural Heritage Ambassadors Program Pilot Hosted At Two Mississippi Museums

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(Source: www.msdeltaheritage.com)

In February 2024, the first cohort of the Mississippi Delta Cultural Heritage Ambassadors Program Pilot met in the Trustmark Community Room at the Two Mississippi Museums in Jackson, MS for their program orientation.

With support from a Walton Family Foundation grant, over the next 8 months, these 10 cohort members will learn the fundamentals of cultural heritage interpretation from some of the field’s top professionals, including National Park Service interpreters and local Mississippi Delta interpretation practitioners.

“The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area is dedicated to engaging Mississippi Delta residents in finding, saving, telling, and experiencing their own stories,” said Dr. Rolando Herts, executive director of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area (MS Delta NHA) and director of the Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University. “There are so many talented and hardworking individuals in this cohort. We appreciate this unique opportunity to collaborate with StoryWorks Theater, the National Park Service, Mississippi Department of Archives & History, and the Walton Family Foundation to empower Mississippi Delta residents to interpret our region’s distinctive cultural heritage.”

The inaugural Ambassador cohort is comprised of 10 residents of Clarksdale, MS, and the surrounding area united by a shared interest in telling the stories of the Mississippi Delta:

  • Brenda Luckett, North Mississippi Civil Rights Museum

  • Mary Ann Mackey, Tutwiler Quilters

  • Dorfus Young, Young Family Farm

  • Cassandra Wilson, Taxi cab owner and community tour guide

  • R.J. Fitzpatrick, Documentary filmmaker and educator

  • Charles Coleman, StoryWorks Theater and photojournalist

  • Layla Young, StoryWorks Theater

  • Amana Wallace, StoryWorks Theater

  • Charles Young, StoryWorks Theater

  • Mechelle Chane, Educator and community historian

At the Cultural Heritage Ambassadors Program Orientation in Jackson, cohort members heard from Pamela Junior, inaugural director of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and recently retired former director of the Two Mississippi Museums, along with Michael Morris, current director of the Two Mississippi Museums. Junior and Morris guided the cohort through the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, facilitating discussion about how the two museums interpret Mississippi’s cultural and natural history.

Cohort members watching a video at the Museum of Mississippi History.

The Orientation at the Two Mississippi Museums was made possible through the partnership of the Mississippi Department of Archive and History (MDAH). “The Mississippi Department of Archives and History is excited to partner with the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area on their Ambassador program. The Ambassador program supports the community advocates in the Mississippi Delta who are telling our state’s and nation’s history,” said MJ Shappley, Assistant to the Director at MDAH.

In the coming months, cohort members will study cultural heritage interpretation theory and best practices.  Keena Graham, Superintendent of the Medgar & Myrlie Evers Home National Monument in Jackson, MS, is leading the cohort’s introduction to cultural heritage interpretation theory.

“We have had one introduction to interpretation session so far and the cohort was really engaged” said Superintendent Graham. “I asked them to think about an interpretive project they were interested in developing and then propose an ‘essential question.’ What about your subject speaks to our shared humanity, to the universal experiences of life? Once they have that question, they can start tailoring their project to specific audiences.

The cohort will apply what they learn to a collaborative, public-facing capstone project. StoryWorks Theater in Clarksdale, MS, a key partner in the Ambassadors Program Pilot, will facilitate the cohort capstone project this summer. In August 2024, cohort members will present their capstone project to the public.

Jenna Welch is the founder and producing artistic director for StoryWorks Theater. “I am thrilled that StoryWorks is partnering with the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area and the National Park Service to develop a professional, historical interpretation program!” said Ms. Welch. “It is an exciting extension of the work we have been doing in communities across the Mississippi Delta for nearly a decade. With this wonderful opportunity, residents will gain the skills and experience needed to develop museums, tours, and historical markers and create art to grow a deeper understanding of the rich history of their home — the Delta — for the benefit of our communities.”

The Mississippi Delta Cultural Heritage Ambassadors Program Pilot is made possible by grant funding from the Walton Family Foundation. This is the first Walton Family Foundation grant received by Delta State University. Partner organizations include the Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University, the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area, StoryWorks Theater, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, and the National Park Service.

The MS Delta NHA includes 18 counties that contain land located in the alluvial floodplain of the Mississippi Delta: Bolivar, Carroll, Coahoma, DeSoto, Holmes, Humphreys, Issaquena, Leflore, Panola, Quitman, Sharkey, Sunflower, Tallahatchie, Tate, Tunica, Warren, Washington, and Yazoo. The MS Delta NHA was designated by U.S. Congress in 2009 and is governed by a board of directors representing agencies and organizations defined in the congressional legislation. More information about the MS Delta NHA, including the complete approved management plan, is available at www.msdeltaheritage.com.

The mission of The Delta Center is to promote a greater understanding of Mississippi Delta culture and history and its significance to the world through education, partnerships and community engagement. The Delta Center serves as the management entity of the MS Delta NHA and the National Endowment for the Humanities “Most Southern Place on Earth” workshops. For more information, visit http://deltacenterdsu.com/.

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