Directors’ Letter 5th & University / May, 2020


“The arts are fundamental to our humanity. They ennoble and inspire us—fostering creativity, goodness, and beauty. The arts bring us joy, help us express our values, and build bridges between cultures. The arts also are a fundamental component of a healthy community—strengthening them socially, educationally, and economically—benefits that persist even in difficult social and economic times.”

Americans for the Arts, 2020

Photo of Robert Saarnio by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss CommunicationsWarmest of greetings to you all, from the University Museum and Rowan Oak. The entire professional staff team joins me in expressing every hope that this communication finds you sheltered safely, and remaining confident in the brighter future that assuredly awaits our communities.

The University is proving to be — as it has always been — a supportive, thoughtful, and engaged parent organization for our museum and historic house, as University leadership and Provost Noel Wilkin steer the institutional ship through complex and rocky shoals.

Emerging from the most recent meetings as of this last week of April is the fact that across the entire University all Summer 2020 camps, programs, events, and conferences have been cancelled through August 1st. This unfortunately includes our immensely popular schedule of children’s summer camps.

Staff have been telecommuting and we are all staying in contact — they remain the highly-skilled, dedicated, and innovative professionals you have always known them to be. Our development officer Rob Jolly and I remain in frequent contact as we explore available modes of sustaining meaningful connection with our stakeholders and donors. One example has been the planning to celebrate this 10th anniversary year of the founding of the Hattie Mae Edmonds Fund and Gallery for Southern Folk Art with the direct involvement of Fund creator Mike Edmonds.

Among online initiatives underway, a new Rowan Oak website is in final stages of its preparation for a live launch — an exciting development long-anticipated by us all, and one that holds such great promise to augment public awareness of the Faulkner property and its wide range of engaging stories, and its collections now formally acquired in perpetuity by the University.

As we emerge from challenging times, we believe cultural spaces like our University Museum and our National Historic Landmark literary heritage site will be more essential than ever, as people seek solace in opportunities for reflection, beauty, and engagement with the past. Until then, we hope that in some small way we can offer a refuge — even remotely — from the anxieties of this moment. We invite you to stay connected through the Museum’s website and social media channels, where our talented team will be regularly posting content to inspire creation, reflection, and learning.

Should you have any questions that I might answer, or any support that I can offer from the Museum, please do not hesitate to contact me at, my cell 808-284-7380, and weekdays at my Museum desk extension 915-7202.

In these difficult times, we are reminded daily of the importance of community and the greater impact of ideas and creative expression. We wish you all safe haven and good health in the days ahead.

Robert Saarnio's signature
Robert Saarnio 
Museum Director