Directors’ Letter 5th & University / August, 2020

Photo of Robert Saarnio by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss CommunicationsWarmest of mid-summer greetings from your University Museum, and Faulkner’s Rowan Oak – with hope that this finds all of you safe and healthy in these times of care and concern for our extended stakeholder and Member community. As you will see in content within this Newsletter, the Museum staff remain very busy on many fronts, and have been back in office (though masked and socially-distanced) since July 1. Similarly, on the Rowan Oak front its preparations for re-opening are underway on multiple adapted fronts, including planning for cashless tour admissions, by the addition of a credit-card point of sale system.

Regarding our re-opening of both sites, we are currently planning to do so in phases, starting with the August 24th first week of Fall semester. We will first open to Faculty and Students of the University, initially by Appointment Only. As an academic museum we have a substantial degree of prioritization of service to our University’s curriculum—it’s faculty, students, and research scholars. We will participate within the University’s Keep Teaching and Keep Learning rubrics, to meet curriculum and research needs that are collections or exhibitions-based, to the greatest degree possible.

For the general public and our many acclaimed childrens’ educational programs, we are adopting a cautious and deliberative approach: as I write here on the last day of July, given the current notably-increasing Covid case counts and positive-test percentages statewide—both metrics burgeoning weekly—we are not yet establishing a Museum galleries re-opening date. Initially having considered opening immediately following Labor Day, we will adhere to original CDC national re-opening guidelines of awaiting 14 consecutive days of case declines, and 14 consecutive days of positive-test percentage declines. In this particular moment, while it is difficult to set aside museum professionals’ instinct for our exhibitions to be shared with in-person audiences, I do not want the Museum to be a causal factor for anyone to leave their house for a public indoors experience, regardless of the stringent and newly-posted room occupancy & capacity reductions.

To maximize public health and safety, we are interpreting galleries of museum visitors to be non-essential indoor gatherings for at least this interim critical period. We will monitor Mississippi and Lafayette County statistics very closely, and plan for Museum galleries re-openings when we see a safer community caseloads environment. Once this has occurred we will be ready to roll, as myriad adaptations to the Museum environment have already been undertaken in our Re-Opening work with the University’s Facilities Management and Health Service professionals.

This having been noted, we do not consider the Museum to be ‘closed’, as we continue to upload new online and virtual content and serve audiences remotely with a range of creative offerings that one can access on our website, social media platforms, and the Museum Education Blog. We also continue work on future Exhibitions Planning, on the Greek & Roman Antiquities Reinstallation project in the Mary Buie building, and on assessments for significant upgrades to the Museum’s security infrastructure. Every week we undertake communication with donors, prospects, and stakeholders in partnership with our Development Officer, Rob Jolly. An exceptionally handsome promotional brochure has been developed to celebrate the 10th Anniversary this Fall of the creation of the Hattie Mae Edmonds Fund for Southern Folk Art. New donor appeals and outreach, in conjunction with Fund creator Dr. Mike Edmonds, will be undertaken in that campaign.

In coming editions of 5th & University we will begin sharing news of new additions of artworks and artifacts to the Permanent Collection, having been received from multiple donors—as additionally we plan for a future major exhibition of gifts to the collection since we last featured such more than 5 years ago.

As always, we thank you for your support and understanding. All best wishes for well-being to every one of you.

Robert Saarnio's signature
Robert Saarnio 
Museum Director