80th Birthday Celebration

Photo of Robert Saarnio by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss CommunicationsGreetings from your University Museum, where we are celebrating the 80th year of the Museum’s founding in 1939 as the City of Oxford-owned Mary Buie Museum. We’d like to invite all of you to join us Tuesday, August 27th from 6 – 8 p.m. during the monthly Art Crawl as we cut an anniversary cake and raise a toast to eight decades of exhibition and programming excellence — the last 45 of which have been under the stewardship of the University as The University of Mississippi Museum.

We’d like to pay tribute on this occasion to the vision and generosity of our founder Mary Buie, an artist who left a bequest to the City upon her passing in 1937 to establish the Oxford Art Center, a WPA Federal Art Project community art center, that opened on August 24, 1939 and evolved into the Mary Buie Museum.

In the mid-1970s, the collections of many campus departments and those of Mary’s half-sister Kate Skipwith were added when the Adair Skipwith Foundation, the University, and the state legislature raised funds to construct the Kate Skipwith Teaching Museum addition to the original building. Subsequently the University transferred the Walton-Young House to the Museum’s oversight in 1998, and in 2003 the Museum was assigned daily operating responsibility by the University for Faulkner’s Rowan Oak.

This 80th Anniversary calendar year of 2019 has seen the accomplishment of major exhibitions and milestones, including the publication of The Beautiful Mysterious, The Extraordinary Gaze of William Eggleston, a 144-page hard-cover catalog of the Museum’s collection of Eggleston prints, gifted by the legendary Dr. William R. (Bill) Ferris. We’ve launched exhibitions across a wide range of origins: renderings in gouache of bird and tree species by David Allen Sibley; watercolor photorealist still lifes by Laurin McCracken; and landscapes in multiple media from national contributing artists, curated by William Dunlap.

Our major Fall exhibition will be the exceptional Two Lives in Photography, comprising works by Maude Schuyler Clay and Langdon Clay – please mark your calendars for Tuesday, September 24 for the Clay’s exhibition opening reception.

2019 has also seen the creation of the position of Assistant Collections Manager, held by our newest colleague Kristin Conwill, and the launch of a series of themed and strategically-timed Pop Up exhibitions that celebrate elements of the Permanent Collection — under the leadership of Collections Manager and Exhibitions Coordinator Melanie Antonelli.

Melanie has also led the reinstallation of the Seymour Lawrence Collection of American Art, complete with added labeling to facilitate deeper levels of understanding of these 42 works on daily view. All this has been occurring while the Greek and Roman Antiquities reinstallation project in the Mary Buie galleries has continued — We are excited to open Gallery #2 in Fall 2019.

And I have the joy of closing with the exceptionally good news that the University and Museum fundraising campaign to acquire the furnishings, books, and artwork contents of Rowan Oak has succeeded by means of the extraordinarily generous philanthropic support of Sandy and John Black of Madison, Mississippi, who have funded the entire acquisition. The result is more than 270 artifacts long held on exhibit in loan status from the Faulkner family, having now become permanent collections, secured in perpetuity by the University on behalf of Rowan Oak. To the Blacks, and to our essential colleagues from University Development, we express the Museum’s deepest and most sincere gratitude.

Please join us on August 27th for anniversary cake and boundless enthusiasm as we look ahead to the next eighty years of this distinguished academic museum, and its historic houses.

Robert Saarnio's signature
Robert Saarnio 
Museum Director