Cottonlandia Museum in Greenwood, MS

July 23, 2011 · 0 comments

in Mississippi River Delta

Cotton Bales

Primitive Cotton Bales

Well I wish I was in the Land of Cotton!

The article heading is the opening line from a favorite Southern Song “Dixie”. I’ve lived my entire life in Mississippi where we once boasted the largest cotton crop of any state in the Union. The Mississippi River Delta provides the fertile soil and Mississippi farmers provide the know-how and labor. The story of Cotton in Mississippi is about the people who built one of the largest economic engines in the history of the USA. Don’t let singing “Dixie” throw you off course. Mississippians are proud citizens of the United States of America. But, we also value our southern heritage . There are some today who frown upon anyone who is proud of their heritage. That’s a shame. After all … you are what you are. I’ll get off my soapbox now, you probably don’t want to read about that.

Cottonlandia Sign

Cottonlandia Museum Sign

This is truly a different kind of museum. 

This week, I had the privilege to discover Cottonlandia Museum in Greenwood, Mississippi. I had never noticed this wonderful resource before. This is one of the finest, most interesting small museums you will ever have the opportunity to spend the day in. For 40 years these folks have been collecting, preserving, and interpreting the art, history and natural science of this unique region of our country. There is a distinct emphasis on cotton agriculture. I had no idea what to expect. We entered late in the day and thought we had very little time, so we scurried from room to room seeing as much as we could on a short leash.

We were rescued by High Warren III who is a treasure trove of information about all things related to Cottonlandia Museum. He took us on a tour along with an executive of nearby Mississippi Valley State University. You remember that school don’t you? Valley State is the Alma-mater of Jerry Rice of the NFL and pro football fame. You expect a museum named Cottonlandia to be focused on the agricultural interest of the area. Greenwood, MS is one of the major cities of the Mississippi Delta and much of the wealth of the area is directly traceable to the farming industry. But the Mississippi Delta is about people, not things. This museum focuses on both industry and the people who live here.

As we entered the museum we were greeted by the current display “Robert Johnson Exposed”. Robert Johnson was a world famous Blues Singer and song writer and an accomplished artist. The display contains Photos, Gold Records, Art and memorabilia which you will find nowhere else. Come quickly before this display is replaced. This exhibition runs from May 5, to Sept. 6, 2011

Each year the museum sponsors an art competition among local artists and want-to-be artists. Cash prizes are paid in the highly competitive contest. Some of the art which has won the competition is appraised in the $$ thousands. One room is dedicated to winning art from this competition. The art ondisplay ranges from Primitive to Modern and includes carvings, paintings and sculputres of excellent quality. This is a must see!

I am a tool freak and my eyes nearly popped out of my head when I entered the room with tools and farm implements. There are hundreds of hand tools plus pieces of machinery.

Primitive Tool Display

There is an ancient steel wheeled tractor, a horse-drawn carriage that was certainly the Cadillac of its time. A whiskey still is on display required special permits from local law enforcement agencies.

Another large room displays some of the most outstanding Indian Artifacts on display anywhere.

I’m not talking about things like arrowheads which are common finds, although there are lots of these. This unusual display contains very rare, unbroken pieces of pottery, alongside other less common pieces of which enough fragments were found were re-assembled and are also showcased.

The Indian artifact room is worth the time, if you could only see the display of trade beads. These trade beads, from around the world, demonstrate the evolution of bead styles over 400 years of history. No museum anywhere can match this collection which was donated to Cottonlandia Museum in Greenwood, MS.

The Malmaison Room centers on the life of Greenwood Leflore, the political leader of the Choctaws, a planter and  Mississippi State Senator. His mansion, named Malmaison in honor of the home of Josephine, Empress of France, burned in 1942. This room displays photographs, furniture and artifacts from Malmaison, giving us a glimpse of the splendor in which he lived.

Mastadon Fossil

Mastadon Fossil

One focus of the museum is natural history. The Delta Swamp Room features a rustic bridge from which visitors can see and hear sounds of the creatures of a Mississippi wetland. Portions of the fossil of a pre-historic Mastadon are kept in a glass encased display. These fossils were uncovered in nearby Carroll County, MS by a local resident. The museum is supported by gifts from generous benefactors and memberships of those who see the value of such a place. The local school-children are taught in rooms dedicated to such functions. Some come during “Summer Camp” and others on school field trips. This visit only required a short daytrip for me but it is worthy of a longer trip as there is much to see in the Mississippi Delta Area.

That’s all we have space to tell about this wonderful museum. Go see it when you can, it’s worth the time. Until next time, keep rolling up miles and dialing up smiles.

Bill Taylor

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