HENSON DONOR AGREES TO ALLOW COLLECTION TO STAY IN LELAND
Leland, MS – The donor to the Jim Henson Delta Boyhood Exhibit who had been threatening to request removal of his collection from the Leland Museum has decided to let his items stay. The decision came on the heels of last week’s move by the Leland Board of Aldermen to pass a resolution requesting that the Governor and the Mississippi Legislature Repeal HB1523.
“We’re so glad to have this issue come to such a favorable resolution,” says Melia Christensen, Executive Director of the Leland Chamber of Commerce. Christensen has been handling all correspondence with the donor.
Mr. Kenneth Watson of La Mesa, California, wrote to the Henson Exhibit and the Leland Chamber of Commerce on April 10, just days after passage of the bill by the Mississippi Legislature. His initial request asked the Exhibit to remove some 60 items that were on permanent loan to the Museum, stating, “I cannot in good conscience allow my belongings and name be associated with a state that finds the passing of this law allowable.”
The Chamber responded, appealing to Watson to reconsider his request and emphasizing that “at the Henson Exhibit, we do not, have not and will not discriminate against anyone for any reason.” The Chamber’s response also stated, “Our policy of openness persists in the face of these recent actions by our state legislature. We have joined with the Mississippi Tourism Association in their campaign, ‘ALL are Welcome’, and we will proudly display this logo decal on our windows as soon as it becomes available.”
Upon receiving this response, Watson asked for some time to weigh his decision, adding that he was in contact with friends, family and LGBT groups in the state. Shortly after hearing that Leland’s elected officials passed a resolution calling for the repeal of the bill, Watson agreed to let his items remain in the Exhibit. In a statement to the Chamber, which he has agreed be made public, he said:
“Today, you have shown me that Leland is trying to be part of a solution. I applaud you, Mayor Thomas and the Board of Aldermen for your valiant efforts to erase these injustices. I would be proud to offer you my support and allow my collection to stay in Leland…. Your act of resolution shows great responsibility in the fight against HB 1523. I can only hope that other cities and communities follow your lead and that your Governor hears the voices of reason.”
Christensen says she is proud of Leland for making such a unified statement and showing leadership on this issue. “I don’t think most of us in Leland intended to get involved in this issue so publicly, but Mr. Watson’s actions had the effect of forcing us to take us a stand. It really sparked a conversation across our community, and it caused us to come together in a way that I don’t think we would have without his prompting.”
Watson’s collection, along with thousands of other memorabilia and original Henson drawings, can be viewed at the Jim Henson Delta Boyhood Exhibit on Highway 82 in Leland. The Exhibit is open from 10am to 4pm Monday throughout Saturday.