What a great week it has been since the re-opening of the DeSoto County Museum, following a revamp in the face of the global pandemic.
The welcome mat is now out once again to visitors from around the world and our neighbors just down the street.
A steady stream of visitors has found their way into DeSoto County’s award-winning museum which was voted as the State of Mississippi’s “Best Small Museum” in 2003 upon its re-opening.
Since that time, the museum curator and staff have added a total of nine new exhibits and augmented existing displays with additional artifacts. For instance, the museum’s Law Enforcement Exhibit, which chronicles the careers and stories of legendary sheriffs, deputies, constables and includes law enforcement men and women from pioneer times until present day, has been expanded and updated to include everything from a 1911 Colt revolver to a framed portrait of DeSoto County Deputy Sheriff Ray Richardson, the county’s first black deputy sheriff.
The museum received a recent cache of artifacts from the sons of legendary DeSoto County Constable Hop Durdin, who, along with his counterpart Burmah Hobbs, battled moonshiners, gamblers, and all sorts of vice and corruption, and struck terror in the hearts of all teenagers out for a moonlight drive. Durdin’s badge, handcuffs, pistol holster, and other artifacts are now on display.
There have been a few changes to the museum’s entrance foyer, now outfitted with a handsomely stained framed panel of large Plexiglass. The receptionist area is now encased in Plexiglass as well.
The foyer has been completely cordoned off to ensure the health and safety of all those entering the museum, located just off the interstate in the DeSoto County seat.
Guests are asked to don masks for the tour, which lasts about 45 minutes. Temperatures are taken to alert individuals to the fact they might need to seek medical attention. Hand sanitizer and even gloves are made available.
Once entering, the museum affords literally everyone a stroll through history, from the time of prehistoric dinosaurs to the civilizations of Native Americans, the exploits of Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto, the American Civil War, and Civil Rights eras.
The capstone of the museum’s current exhibits and collections includes the Unknown Child Exhibit, which honors the lives and stories of the 1.5 million Jewish children who died during the Holocaust, both before and after World War II. The local tie to the exhibit also involves the participation of the late Morris Casey, a DeSoto County World War II G.I. who helped liberate Nazi-era concentration camps.
Thousands have attended and viewed this truly remarkable exhibit, which includes a short film in the museum’s theater.
An accompanying exhibit includes local Jewish history and the story of early Jewish pioneers like the Goodman family and the forebears of present-day DeSoto County residents.
One of the museum’s newest collections is on loan by Dr. Henry Wadsworth’s family. Dr. Henry Wadsworth and his son William recently made available the entire medical archive from the family’s medical practice. The medical archive, which includes artifacts, instruments, medicines, and other fascinating items, is enjoined by some of the personal belongings of the late Dr. Angus Emerson.
That exhibit, which is currently being crafted for display, will join an exhibit on the major historical event shaping our world today. “Days of the Pandemic” will showcase diaries, journals, photographs, and other memorabilia from the living history we are now experiencing.
History is unfolding all around us and we invite you to become a part of it. To submit your pandemic diaries and journals, children’s refrigerator art, etc. please contact the DeSoto County Museum at 662-429-8852 to become a part of this important exhibit.
Robert Lee Long is the Curator of the DeSoto County Museum.