Panola Museum

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 30, 2010

Tunica Museum director Dick Taylor describes the funding and operations of the Tunica attraction to a meeting last week of the Pan Gens, the Panola County Genealogical Society. Pan Gens members are seeking a Panola County museum. The Panolian photo by John Howell Sr.

Panola Museum seekers hear from neighbor

By John Howell Sr.

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The acclaimed Tunica Museum is housed in an 18,000-square-foot facility that cost about $2 million to construct and holds exhibits valued at about $750,000, museum director Dick Taylor said.

Taylor and Darlene Griffith, Tunica Museum collections representatives, spoke at the July 22 meeting of the Panola County Genealogical Society (Pan Gens). The Tunica museum is funded by a 1.5 mill tax levied by the Tunica County Board of Supervisors, Taylor said.

The Tunica museum representatives came at the invitation of Calvin Land and Conner Vick, Pan Gens members who, along with Robert Rawson, have helped to coordinate interest in a Panola County Museum.

Taylor said that the goal of Tunica’s museum is to be, “a living, breathing, fascinating part of the community.” It hosts 75 to 80 visitors daily, including many making side trips from nearby casinos, the museum director continued. There is no admission charge.

He said that a Panola County Museum could expect to attract spinoff visitors from the five million who annually visit Sardis and Enid Reservoirs. The Mississippi Tourism Commission has determined that the average visitor who stays one day longer than originally planned will spend an extra $70.

The Tunica Museum operates on about $350,000 annually, Taylor continued, including salaries for the four full-time and two part-time staffers. It charges no admission.

“Traffic flow is very important,” Taylor said, responding to a question about the building and grounds from George Randolph.

“Close to the Indians is a plus,” he continued, referring to one proposed museum site on Highway 35 near the Batesville Mounds.

“Decide on a story line that tells the story line of this area,” Taylor said, when John Nelson asked about deciding what exhibits the museum should consider.

The museum director, responding to additional questions, made suggestions about security, cataloging acquisitions and helpful professional affiliations.

Taylor said that he raised cotton and operated a gin in Tunica County for 27 years before becoming the museum’s director.

“If I could turn the clock back to the best days of my life,” Taylor said, “it would be the days I spent collecting” items to be exhibited in the Tunica Museum.

The Panola Pan Gens Museum, Inc. was organized this year as a 501 (3)c non-profit corporation. Directors are seeking a federal grant to jump start construction of a museum, Vick said.