Directors’ Letter 5th & University / February 2021

Photo of Robert Saarnio by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss CommunicationsWarmest of winter greetings from your University of Mississippi Museum and William Faulkner’s Rowan Oak! We hope that you have already undertaken as a first-week of every month habit the Inbox opening of our ‘What’s Happening’ subject line message, which carries the Newsletter you are reading, 5th & University. Over the course of the past year we have transitioned our compilation of all things University Museum to this e-news format, and we’d love for you to be an ambassador of the Museum by encouraging friends, family, and associates to subscribe. Look for the Hear our Latest News First widget at the top right of the Museum’s website home page, and upon clicking the mail icon one lands at the subscribing form here.

As I write these words on the last day of January, the University’s Spring semester is in full swing and faculty, students, and research scholars are making appointments to tour the Museum and access the Exhibitions and Collections on view. We have commenced our strategic considerations review to combine maximized public health and safety with a re-opening to the General Public in late-Spring, and we will keep you fully apprised of that date. In the interim, Faculty, Staff and Graduate students of the state’s public universities are in a phase of the vaccinations rollout as educators that seemingly has us coming online for that campus-wide eligibility also this Spring.

Regarding the pandemic period, we trust that you’ve been able to partake of the many online and virtual offerings the senior staff have been developing and posting up for your educational interest, and for your kids’ online learning opportunities—including the many art activity kits that we’ve distributed by the hundreds off the Walton Young Porch on a self-serve drive-up & take-home basis. Over 400 art kits were distributed for the December Family Activity Day, and another 150 for the very recent Oxford Fiber Arts Festival, with which we actively partner and participate within annually. The next two Family Activity days will be March 4–5 and April 22–23—look here for the themes and for the art kits availability dates. We also have a Bailey Woods Trail Scavenger Hunt being developed, with anticipated rollout in the month of March. As always, if you have any questions about our youth and family activities such as the above or our Museum Education Blog and the Virtual Open Studios, please feel free to contact our Curator of Education Stacy Bell here.

Museum Collections Manager and Curator of Exhibitions Melanie Antonelli has been exceptionally busy on fronts too numerous to summarize, but one distinctive accomplishment among many is her workup of a new Your Gallery Guide in folded pamphlet format, conveying all the covid-era adapted touring information, Museum gallery-by-gallery. While the first users of the Guide are the faculty and students in their appointment-booked class tours, please feel free to reach me at if you’d like to see the new Gallery Guide in hard copy which I’ll mail, or as an attached PDF.

Self-guided public use of the Rowan Oak grounds and landscape, and the federally-landmarked Bailey Woods Trail connecting Faulkner’s home to the Museum, has been very high throughout all four of the seasons since the pandemic’s start. We want all members, supporters, and stakeholders to always recall that the Rowan Oak grounds are accessible entirely free of charge seven days a week, year-round and dawn-to-dusk, for strolling, photography, and the peaceful serenity that the context of grounds, landscape, outbuildings and Trail offer to all. Avail yourselves of the Trail pamphlets and House booklets at the weather-proofed literature holders (2) that are placed at the site, for a maximized self-touring and informational experience.

In our next issue of 5th & University I’ll have some exciting news to unveil regarding the front-facing University Avenue exterior landscape of the Museum itself—if you’ve passed by in recent days you may have noticed the hard pruning back and heavy trimming of all trees and bushes along the linear sweep of the 1939 and the 1977 building exteriors on this University Avenue side. This work by the university’s Landscape Services team Is preparatory to a new initiative in this location that we will reveal next month.

New picnic tables

Provided to the Museum by University Landscape Services, freely available at this time for your enjoyment

In closing, a personal reminder of our immense gratitude for all of you who have sustained your Memberships (join here) or who have enjoyed our trail, grounds, and perhaps even the four new picnic tables that have been added around the Museum and the Walton-Young House exteriors. We welcome your interest and any questions at any time–never hesitate to reach me at the e-mail address noted above or at my Desk # 662-915-7202.


Robert Saarnio's signature
Robert Saarnio 
Museum Director