The Delta Center for Culture & Learning at Delta State University plays a critical role in bringing the history and culture of the Mississippi Delta to the public. In addition to hosting an annual NEH Landmarks Workshop for School Teachers, “The Most Southern Place on Earth,” the center runs the International Delta Blues Project and manages the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area (MDNHA). NHA recently completed a survey of the Delta Center’s Landmarks Workshop that explores the program’s longlasting impact on participants. Through qualitative and quantitative data, the results demonstrate that the program rejuvenates teachers, helps them incorporate creative and engaging pedagogies into their classrooms, and encourages continued professional development and strong professional networks.
The Delta Center now intends to use these data in its ongoing efforts to document the impact of its work. We expect the data will be particularly effective when embedded within the center’s already strong communications efforts. The center has developed a corpus of rich narratives and visual media and it routinely brings these resources to the attention of stakeholders. In fact, the Delta Center’s outreach strategy serves as an instructive example for humanities organizations interested in showcasing the impact of their work to community stakeholders and policymakers.
Rolando Herts, Director of the Delta Center and Executive Director of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area describes the organization’s communications plan as “beginning with the end in mind.” Knowing that successful communications rely on having a great deal of media and information ready to go, staff document their efforts every step of the way, taking photographs, recording videos, and requesting personal testimonials from people who have felt the impact of their work.
The Delta Center has particularly excelled in demonstrating the power of the humanities through the tools of the humanities. Pictures of “The Most Southern Place on Earth” workshops and short documentaries emphasize participants personal reactions. Annual portfolios and daily reports provide outsiders with insights into the daily schedule, showcasing both the breadth and depth of the experiences offered to teachers. And all of these materials are produced by student interns, who gain experience in media production while having their own learning experiences in the Delta.
The Delta Center employs a similar communications plan for the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area. The Delta Center team has produced compelling reports for the MDNHA, including a progress report for the entire initiative and a report on its Delta Jewels Oral History Partnership. Through rich imagery, personal testimonials, and case studies, the reports articulate the Delta Center’s goals and provide evidence that the organization is reaching them while enacting positive change in the region.
Most importantly, the Delta Center takes the critical final step in showcasing their impact—ensuring that these products actually reach key audiences. Staff hand-deliver reports to Members of Congress and local civic leaders—and invite them to take part in Delta Center activities. They share their progress with the press and, because of this prior work, are prepared to respond to journalists quickly.
Cumulatively, these efforts have helped the Delta Center become renowned for the quality of its work, positioning it to create new, effective partnerships and continue to support its region’s cultural life.
Thumbnail image: Image courtesy of the Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University.