HELENA -- The Delta Cultural Center, a major visitor attraction for
families in southeastern Arkansas, will close Nov. 1 for a major
renovation that will more than double its exhibit space.
Although the center itself will be dark, trees along Cherry
Street, where the center is situated, will be lighted for the
Christmas period, according to Katie Harrington, the center's
acting director and its former curator.
When the center reopens May 6, more than $1 million will have
been spent on enhancing its exhibits, she said.
Since 1990, the center's permanent exhibit has been "The
Arkansas Delta: A Landscape of Change."
New exhibits with more interactive features will be installed by
Quatrefoil Associates of Laurel, Md., which created the exhibits
for the Central High School Museum in Little Rock.
The exhibits will be housed on the first floor of the main
building (a restored 1912 railroad depot), the second floor and at
two educational storefronts located a block away.
The new exhibits will place increased emphasis on the Delta's
musical legacy and its rivers, according to Quatrefoil
The arts and music will include a film on the city's King
Biscuit Blues Festival, held annually the second week in
Four interactive listening stations will allow visitors to
explore the region's rich musical heritage, especially blues and
In addition, the King Biscuit Hour blues radio program, now
broadcast from the depot, will be moving to the educational center.
The program, which first aired in 1941, is the world's
longest-running blues radio show.
At the depot, an introductory video will provide visitors with
an overview of the new exhibits. A large central area will feature
an exhibit on the region's rivers and the way they affected delta
Other exhibit themes will include Native Americans and
explorers, frontier life and how the land was tamed, agriculture,
the growth of delta towns and the area's social fabric and
The second floor will contain exhibits on the Civil War and its
aftermath, including the July 4, 1863, Battle of Helena and the
seven Confederate generals from Helena.
The sites of four Union batteries used to defend the town will
be visible from the exhibit area.
A railroad caboose attached to the depot will house exhibits for
Officials are hoping the increased emphasis on music in the
exhibits will draw music fans to Helena throughout the year.
The festival drew an estimated 140,000 people during its
four-day run in 1998.
Situated on the shore of the Mississippi River in Phillips
County, Helena emerged as a major Arkansas port shortly after
steamboats began traveling the river in 1811.
In 1833, Helena followed Little Rock as the second town to
incorporate in the Arkansas Territory.
In addition to the center's exhibits, Helena visitors can view a
collection of antebellum and turn-of-the century residences, some
of which are operated as bed-and-breakfasts.
The 1896 Pillow-Thompson House, one of the South's best examples
of Queen Anne-Victorian architecture, is open for free public tours
from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays, and from 1 p.m.
to 4 p.m. on Sundays.
Groups may schedule tours by calling (870) 338-8535.
The Phillips County Museum, built in 1929 and located at 623
Pecan St., includes period portraits of Helena's seven Confederate
generals and other paintings; a handwritten note by Robert E. Lee
and other Civil War memorabilia; a letter and autographed books
from Mark Twain; Native American pottery and tools, and relics
recovered from Mississippi River shipwrecks.
Admission is free and museum hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.,
Tuesdays through Saturdays.
Another popular stop for Helena visitors is an elevated
boardwalk in the Helena Reach riverfront park overlooking the
Helena Tourism Commission
Phone: (870) 338-9831