(INDIANOLA, MS) —The board
of directors and staff of the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center in
Indianola, Mississippi held a groundbreaking ceremony for the expansion of the
museum this week. This expansion includes a 4,500 sq. ft. addition to the
museum that will connect the existing exhibit space with the AT&T Learning
Center and will house what is the museum’s largest artifact, the bus on which
Mr. King traveled and was his home on the road. The area will also house two of
King’s personal automobiles – a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow and a custom painted
Chevy El Camino. Other artifacts and material acquired since his death are
being preserved, cataloged and interpreted, and among these is King’s most
cherished guitar, a Les Paul given to him by Paul himself. The museum also has
the last two Gibson Lucille guitars that King signed. These were both used in
his funeral procession, carried on a riderless black horse. The still
photographs and video from his memorial services will also be powerful
additions to the existing films.
Even before the passing of
Mr. King in 2015, stakeholders in the museum realized that at some point the
rest of King’s life story would need to be told and began collecting material
and interviews for the new film to add to the exhibits. Important events to
document occurred since the Museum opened in 2008, including King’s performance
in the Royal Albert Hall in London, where he recorded a concert video. In 2012,
King was among performers of In Performance at the White House: Red, White
and Blues; in 2009 Time Magazine named him #3 on its list of the 10
best electric guitarists; and he won another GRAMMY® Award in 2008 for Best
Traditional Blues Album.
The expansion project will
also complete the Memorial Garden, the site of King’s final resting place. In
addition to the existing granite tablet, there will be an impressive
free-standing structure with a life-size bronze of Mr. King holding his beloved
Lucille. The bronze is being crafted by noted sculptor Toby Mendez.
The likeness of King will be
seated on a bench to allow visitors to takes photographs beside it. “I am very
excited about the expansion project. Since the passing of Mr. King, we have
been on a mission to complete his gravesite,” said Malika Polk-Lee, executive
director of the museum. “Not only will we do that, but we will now be able to
enhance the visitor experience by dedicating new permanent exhibit space to
tell the final chapter of the extraordinary life of B.B. King and to show the
way he used transportation to spread his music around the world,” she added.
Gallagher and Associates,
the designers of the original exhibit, are also planning the expansion.
Building design is being done by Canizaro-Cawthon-Davis with engineering by
Gardner Engineering and construction by David Smith Construction.
Bill McPherson, museum board
president, said, “The upcoming groundbreaking will represent the final stages
of one of the most fulfilling projects I have ever been involved with. What
began back in 2002 as a small idea became a truly remarkable project to honor
Indianola’s most famous native son, Riley “B.B.” King. This will be a great day
for our state and will result in a truly fitting tribute to Mr. King.” The $2.5
million expansion is made possible with the support of the City of Indianola,
the Mississippi Department of Transportation, the state of Mississippi and
Delta Regional Authority.