In his "Mayor's Message" last week, Mayor Jay Hollowell quoted Mark Twain saying, "Over 130 years ago in 'Life on the Mississippi' Mark Twain wrote, "Helena occupies one of the prettiest situations on the Mississippi River". Indeed, Helena does occupy a special spot on the river and is a beautiful Mississippi River Delta town." I nearly always agree with Twain.

In his "Mayor's Message" last week, Mayor Jay Hollowell quoted Mark Twain saying, "Over 130 years ago in ‘Life on the Mississippi’ Mark Twain wrote, "Helena occupies one of the prettiest situations on the Mississippi River".  Indeed, Helena does occupy a special spot on the river and is a beautiful Mississippi River Delta town."  I nearly always agree with Twain. 

Way back when, and I won't mention the year, when I was wading, and even though I have always been an avid reader, what sometimes felt like drowning, in my summer reading for school, I came to know author Mark Twain.  We were given choices of books to read, and invariably I would always choose Twain. His books were somewhat shorter and oh so much easier to read than say Thomas Wolfe's  "Look Homeward Angel".  

And not only that, Twain wrote about Mississippi River life and characters that I had an affinity for, since I was from the Mississippi Delta. I could imagine myself floating on a raft on the river in the summertime with Huckleberry Finn and Jim, having all kinds of outdoor adventures.  And even at that much younger age, I could see the irony, and the truth, and the pure wisdom in what Twain wrote.

The first time I visited the Helena Museum, I was lucky enough to meet Shane Williams, the museum's director, and get a personal tour of the museum. We began by looking in a case at the front of the museum, what I now affectionately called the "Twain Case.”  When the museum was being built back at the turn of the last century, the ladies of the museum wrote to Twain and asked for his support.  He himself donated quite a few signed volumes of his works that now reside in the case to the Helena Museum. I had an immediate affinity with the museum.

A bit later, I had the pleasure of meeting the president of the museum's board of directors and now the Phillips County Chamber of Commerce's Citizen of the Year, the ever dedicated to Helena Joe Ann Hargraves. I recently sat down with Joe Ann to talk to her about the Helena Museum, it's history, and it's future.  

"I particularly remember a trip to Stockholm, Sweden, where my husband and I, on a bit of a lark, ducked into a tiny museum.  After all these years, I still vividly remember the image of one painting I saw there and think of it often. That small museum made a difference to me," Joe Ann begins her chat with me about her love of the Helena Museum. 

Joe Ann served on the board of directors for the museum prior to becoming its president. She is immersed in every aspect of maintaining the museum's facilities, broadening her knowledge and thereby the offerings at the museum, and growing the museum's positive impact on the Helena community and outward. 

Joe Ann energetically chats about the particulars of refurbishing and renovating parts of the museum's facility, as well as growing the museum's offerings and exhibits. I am very impressed with her dedication, perseverance, and growth plans.

She finishes our chat returning to where we started, the impact a small museum can make.  "Yes, I know that a small museum can make a difference to me, to our citizens of Helena and Phillips County, the Delta, the state of Arkansas, and ultimately everyone. The Helena Museum makes a difference."

Mark Twain agreed with Joe Ann.  "It's the little things that smoothes peoples roads the most," Twain wrote in "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn".  

And I agree with them both.  I will be writing more soon about what is going on at the Helena Museum.