Local News

Published on May 8th, 2013 | by Newt Rayburn


Delta Blues Museum to Receive National Medal for Museum and Library Service Today in White House Ceremony

Celebration Featuring First Lady Michelle Obama Highlights Impact of Mississippi Museum

This afternoon, in a White House ceremony in the East Room, First Lady Michelle Obama will join Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Director Susan Hildreth to present the 2013 National Medal for Museum and Library Service to Delta Blues Museum. The nation’s highest honor conferred on museums and libraries for service to the community, the National Medal celebrates institutions that make a difference for individuals, families, and communities. Shelley Ritter, Delta Blues Museum’s executive director and community member Travis Calvin will accept the National Medal.

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 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.”

“Museums and libraries serve as centers for lifelong learning and as cornerstones for our communities. Not only is the Delta Blues Museum celebrating one of our country’s most fundamental genres of music, but they’re educating the next blues greats. We are proud to name Delta Blues Museum one of this year’s National Medal for Museum and Library Service winners,” said Susan Hildreth, director, Institute of Museum and Library Services.

This year’s 10 honorees exemplify the nation’s great diversity of libraries and museums and include a science center, children’s museum, music museum, art museum, cultural museum, public libraries, and county library systems, hailing from seven states. The 2013 National Medal for Museum and Library Service Ceremony will be streamed live on www.whitehouse.gov/live beginning at 1:30 p.m. EDT.

“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,” said U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (Miss.).

“Mississippi has a rich and storied legacy as the birthplace of the blues,” said U.S. Senator Roger Wicker (Miss.). “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.”

“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,” said U.S. Representative Bennie Thompson (Miss.).

Medal winners are selected from nationwide nominations of institutions that demonstrate innovative approaches to public service, exceeding the expected levels of community outreach. Later this year, StoryCorps – a national nonprofit dedicated to recording, preserving, and sharing the stories of Americans – will visit Delta Blues Museum to document stories from the community.

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About the Author

Newt Rayburn founded THE LOCAL VOICE in March of 2006. Previously, Newt was Editor of PROFANE EXISTENCE in Minneapolis, and Art Director for Ole Miss' LIVING BLUES magazine. Newt won a National Magazine Award in 1999 for his SOUTHERN MUSIC ISSUE with THE OXFORD AMERICAN. A seventh-generation Lafayette County, Mississippian, Newt Rayburn's alter ego—Neuter Cooter—lead the Mississippi band THE COOTERS to Rocknoll Glory across the USA from 1993-2018. Newt is a family man who also is a publisher, photographer, writer, musician, landlord, and Civil War enthusiast.

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