Welcome to your museum!

Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss CommunicationsGreetings from the University Museum and Historic Houses! I have had the great pleasure of assuming the mantle of museum leadership in September. This is a personal and professional opportunity of great meaningfulness to me, and I’ve been welcomed to the community and the University in a myriad of heartwarming ways. To every one of you who has extended a gracious welcome, my sincere thanks. I’ve been deeply moved by your countless gestures of kindness and thoughtfulness.

The Museum is in a very dynamic phase of its life, and we are planning an ambitious series of exhibitions, educational offerings, and public programs for audiences of all ages. Much of our momentum and growth is a direct result of the catalytic impact of my predecessor William Andrews, whose support in my early months I want to acknowledge explicitly. Additionally, the Museum benefited greatly from a stead hand under the
leadership of Interim Director Norm Easterbrook. In so many ways I stand on the shoulders of these two predecessors—thank you, William and Norm.

We are celebrating and anticipating two major events: the gift of Gordon W. Bailey and the reinstallation of the David M. Robinson Collection of Greek and Roman Antiquities in the Mary Buie building. Towards the end of 2012, we were exceptionally fortunate to receive multiple gifts of art from Los Angeles-based collector Gordon W. Bailey. These works by self-taught artists add significantly to the Museum’s holdings of vernacular art, and are raw, powerful, visually compelling, and inspirational.

We are also in the final planning stages of launching a major reinstallation project for the Robinson Collection. One of the Museum’s most significant collections, we are very excited to anticipate a vastly increased presence. Working with a leading national exhibition design consultant, the multi-disciplinary project team will study the latest in interpretive, display, and interactive technology strategies to increase not only the number of works on view, but also the physical and intellectual access to the works.

In closing, let me share a newcomer’s observation about the Museum’s many assets and its extraordinary community.  Beyond the
remarkable depth of our 20,000+ object collection, we benefit immensely from multiple resources available to us. The Museum staff consists of highly-trained and experienced professionals who work tirelessly and dedicatedly to serve our mission and our visitors. Chancellor Daniel W. Jones and the Office of the Provost provide leadership and support that is both essential and inspiring.

The Friends of the Museum is a support organization with a highly active and committed Board who raise funds and lift our spirits with their advocacy and passion for all that we do. Recently, at their January 2013 Board meeting, the Friends made a significant funding contribution in support of the Robinson Collection project; for multiple Museum exhibitions; and for further development of our Outdoor Sculpture program—thank you, Friends, for that very generous underwriting!

As you attend Museum events, please look for me and introduce yourself if we haven’t met—I sincerely look forward to getting to know all of you.

—Robert Saarnio,  Director