(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.
B.B. King Photo by Daniel Knighton