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Mississippi’s Museum Offerings

From institutions that predate World War II to high-tech, highly anticipated venues opening later this year, Mississippi enjoys a rich diversity of distinctive museums. Groups traveling through the state can enjoy art, history, culture and music at many museums from the Delta to the Gulf Coast.

In the Delta region, two museums will give music lovers plenty of experiences to sing about. The B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center in Indianola presents the story and sounds of the world’s most legendary blues musician. And the Grammy Museum Mississippi, opened earlier this year in Cleveland, highlights great moments in all types of music.

In Oxford, home of Ole Miss, the University of Mississippi Museum features collections of American art, as well as interesting historical artifacts from the country’s history. In Jackson, two new museums opening in December will tell the story of Mississippi’s statehood and its role in the civil rights movement. And the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art on the coast in Biloxi is an homage to a distinctive Mississippian who made a name for himself as an inventive potter.

Mississippi’s Mad Potter

You may not expect to find the work of a world-renowned architect in a small city on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast. But at the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art in Biloxi, multiple buildings on the campus were designed by avant-garde architect Frank Gehry. And that’s just the beginning of the brilliance on display there.

The museum was created to honor George Ohr, whose ceramic work in the late 1800s and early 1900s earned him a reputation as the Mad Potter of Mississippi. Visitors to the museum learn about Ohr’s personal life and professional development, and can see examples from his extraordinary body of work.

Gehry designed the stainless steel “pods” of the four main buildings on the museum campus to stand in contrast with the surrounding live oaks. Construction began in 2004 but was curtailed after the destruction of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The museum finally opened in 2010 and now offers a number of tour and experiential opportunities for groups, including pottery demonstrations and ceramics classes.

Grammy Down South

Until earlier this year, music fans interested in learning about the history of the Grammy Awards had to go to Los Angeles to visit the Grammy Museum. But in March, the museum opened a second location in Cleveland, Mississippi, which is a testament to the monumental influence of the Mississippi Delta on modern American music.

Opened on the campus of Delta State University, the new 28,000-square-foot museum has more than 25 exhibits that explore numerous aspects of music. In addition to providing information on the blues heritage of the Mississippi Delta, the museum galleries feature music of every genre, from rock ’n’ roll to hip-hop, country, classical, Latin, R&B and jazz.

The museum’s greatest strength is its interactive experiences: Guests can write and record their own songs in “producing pods,” with guidance from artist Keb’ Mo’, learn dance moves from throughout the years from Grammy winner Ne-Yo on an illuminated dance floor or play electronic instruments in the Roland Room.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.

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