Helena-West Helena, AR— The Delta Cultural Center (DCC) kicked off its July schedule of programs and activities on Thursday July 5. The first presentation of the month was on the history of freshwater shelling and pearl fishing in the Arkansas Delta region.
Prior to the plastic buttons of today, buttons were once made from the shells of mussels. And in the mid to late 1800s, all along the Mississippi River, these animals were the basis for a thriving pearl button industry. During this lunch-hour presentation, from noon until 1 p.m., Richard Spilman, education coordinator of the DCC, will share stories of how mussels from the Mississippi River and its surrounding tributaries were used to make these buttons. And, how people of the Arkansas Delta harvested them as a way to earn a living, all the while yearning for the chance to find a freshwater pearl!
Back then, it wasn’t uncommon to find folks out “polly-wogging” for mussels in search of pearls. Some historians have even compared this lust to find easy money from pearls to the gold rush in California. The presentation will be held at the Miller Annex, 223 Cherry Street, in historic downtown Helena, July 5. Please feel free to bring a brown bag lunch. Admission is free.
Also, save the dates for other DCC activities that are scheduled in July: “The Elaine Colloquium Series III,” will be held July 15, at Temple Beth-El Heritage Hall, 406 Perry Street, from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. Guest speaker is Dr. Brian Mitchell, professor of history at the University of Arkansas, in Little Rock. Dr. Mitchell will explore how politics, economics and a system of Jim Crow laws came together, giving rise to the Elaine Massacre of 1919.
The Delta Arts & Cultural Education Program is a two-week theater-based history and literacy summer camp which will begin July 16, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 noon, at the Delta Cultural Center, 141 Cherry Street, in Helena. This
program will serve K-5 through K-12 youth, from both the local public school district and charter schools in Helena. The camp is just one component of what is a 12-month youth literacy program. The summer segment of the camp will end July 27. Please contact Dr. Kyle Miller, director of the Delta Cultural Center, at 870.338.4350, for more information.
And, on July 22, at 2 p.m., the DCC’s World War I Classic Film Series will open with the movie, “All Quiet on the Western Front.” The film will show at Temple Beth-El Heritage Hall in Helena. Its approximate running time is 2 hours and 15 minutes.
More information on all DCC activities in July will be announced throughout the month, or visit the DCC’s Facebook page, or its website at
The Delta Cultural Center shares the vision of all seven agencies of the Department of Arkansas Heritage—to preserve and promote Arkansas Heritage as a source of pride and satisfaction. Other agencies within the department are the Historic Arkansas Museum, the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, the Old State House Museum, the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, the Arkansas Arts Council, and the Natural Heritage Commission.