Reimagining the Permanent Collection

Seymour Lawrence Gallery


Photo of Robert Saarnio by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss CommunicationsWarmest of Fall greetings from your University Museum, where we conclude our institution’s 80th anniversary year with a high volume of exceptional programs and exhibitions. In this season, our Museum team has been notably strengthened by the arrival of our new Preparator, Travis Turner. Travis completed his undergraduate degree at Allegheny College near his hometown of Meadville, Penn., and relocated to Oxford from Pittsburgh, Penn. area in early October.

The Prepartor position entails duties of fabrication, carpentry, and light construction, as well as mount-making, lighting, and assistance with all exhibition installations. Travis’s considerable experience with exhibition fabrication in his college’s art gallery, during a Smithsonian internship, and a 2018 professional contract position advanced his submittal of interest unequivocally to the top tier of a very extensive candidate pool. On your next visit to the Museum, keep an eye out for our newest colleague, and say hello to Travis!

On the subject of exhibitions, let me call your attention to an emerging new direction, of which early manifestations you may already have seen in the galleries—an increasing focus on mining the 20,000+ artworks and artifacts Permanent Collection for our temporary exhibitions rotations. While we have always shared elements of the permanent holdings, under the leadership and vision of Collections Manager Melanie Antonelli we are notably increasing their presence in the galleries.

In coming issues of 5th & University, we will take up further explorations of this topic, but I will briefly highlight here some of the changes that are coming, or are already well underway:

  • With the relocation and reinstallation of the Greek and Roman Antiquities collections within the 1939 Mary Buie Museum galleries, the gallery space long dedicated to their display will now transition to sub-galleries of Permanent Collection highlights, including a much more prominent series of installations of the Southern Folk Art collections. The flexible divisibility of space in this section of the building via their temporary-wall systems, presents particular opportunities for smaller-scale viewing, one example being the mix of Audubon Prints and Boehm ceramic birds that have been on view in recent months.
  • Long-displayed primarily in the Speakers Gallery, our acclaimed and uniquely comprehensive holdings of the works of artist Theora Hamblett will now be displayed on a rotating basis in the gallery known as the Lower Skipwith at the bottom of the ramp beyond the scientific instruments.
  • Our Speakers Gallery will itself transition to begin displaying highlights from the Permanent Collection of primarily Mississippi artists, with a current installation titled Mississippi Women, which exhibits works of 15 artists of the 20th century, representing a wide range of backgrounds, artistic influences, and periods.
  • And a note regarding the very innovative use of an end cap of gallery wall immediately to the left as one enters the Hattie Mae Edmonds gallery from the Lobby: Melanie and her student assistants are curating themed selections of works in a pop-up manner that rotate on a more frequently. In addition to giving her student interns a co-curating experience under her guidance, this pop-up approach permits the accommodation of themes that are either special topic, such as the Mary Buie Museum Collection pieces on display currently, or seasonal, such as Black History Month.
  • We’ve also begun a more creative use of the case along the hallway to the Education classrooms, which currently showcases very spooky pieces from the permanent collection.
  • You may have noticed the exquisitely beautiful reinstallation of the Seymour Lawrence Gallery, where the modern 20th century works there have expanded interpretive labels, a dramatic new wall color, and a long-needed introductory panel which is smartly flanked by the exceptional Georgia O’Keefe abstraction of Lake George.

In this new direction, we will, of course, continue our temporary exhibitions programming of loaned shows and borrowed works that we curate, such as the current Two Lives in Photography: Maude Schuyler Clay and Langdon Clay, which remains on view through February 15, 2020.

Please join us throughout the Fall to appreciate these new directions, which celebrate so smartly and innovatively the Museum’s extraordinarily wide spectrum of artworks and artifacts in our highly distinguished Permanent Collection.

Robert Saarnio's signature
Robert Saarnio 
Museum Director