UM Museum to Host Olympic-Themed Family Activity Day

Event offers a free day of art and fun for all ages

UnknownOXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi Museum hosts its first Family Activity Day of the summer on Saturday (July 23) with a fun-filled morning of art, learning and activities surrounding an Olympic Games theme.

Parents are invited to bring their children to the event, set for 10 a.m. to noon, which celebrates the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, coming up next month in Rio de Janeiro.

“With this summer’s spectacular exhibit of ‘Gods and Men,’ curated from our own Greek and Roman collection, a Summer Olympics Family Day seemed like an obvious and fun choice,” said Emily McCauley, the museum’s education curator. “We are thrilled to promote health and wellness through the collaboration with RebelWell and Campus Rec to put a modern spin on ancient athletic traditions.”

Through this partnership among the museum, Ole Miss Campus Recreation, RebelWell and Baptist Memorial Hospital, families can participate in indoor and outdoor activities including obstacle stations, a mythological creature gallery search and art activities inspired by the David M. Robinson Greek and Roman antiquities collection. Olympic-themed snacks will also be available.

“RebelWell is extremely grateful for the museum and their commitment to community wellness,” said Wendy Carmean, RebelWell project coordinator. “Partnerships with community-minded groups such as the UM Museum give RebelWell unique platforms and opportunities to promote wellness education and healthy habits to L-O-U children and parents on an ongoing basis that are active and fun.”

The Olympic Games were first held in 776 B.C. in Athens, Greece. Two hundred years later, the Pananthenaic Games were held in Athens every four years. Competitions such as sprinting, boxing, chariot racing and discus were among the contests open to all free men.

Unlike modern Olympics, these games were both a religious festival in honor of Zeus and an athletics event. First-place winners often were given a laurel wreath worn as a crown. In many cases, winners were honored in their home cities with free food for life, money or special privileges.

In the Panathenaic Games, victors were given a terra cotta jar, called an amphora, filled with high-quality olive oil as prizes. These jars were painted with illustrations of athletes or athletic competitions. Two amphoras are on display at the museum, one depicting a boxing scene and another showing an image of Athena in armor.

Other ancient Greek competition items in the collection include a marble inscription commemorating an Olympic victory; another marble inscription discussing privileges and crowns to be awarded at the Panathenaic Games; two lekythoi, which are oil flasks, picturing charioteers; a drinking cup, called a kylix, featuring boxers and a sprinter; and multiple coins featuring ancient competitions such as horse racing, boxing and discus throwing.

Thanks to a crowd-funding effort on Ignite Ole Miss, Family Activity Day is free for everyone.

To keep up with museum activities, follow the museum on Facebook at University of Mississippi Museum and on Twitter and Instagram at @ummuseum. For more information, visit

Visit the UM Museum This Week for First Friday Free Sketch

A museum visitor takes advantage of First Friday Free Sketch at the UM Museum. The next sketch opportunity is Friday, July 1. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

A museum visitor takes advantage of First Friday Free Sketch at the UM Museum. The next sketch opportunity is Friday, July 1. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

Visitors to the University of Mississippi Museum have an opportunity to create and take home their own masterpiece souvenir this summer during First Friday Free Sketch Day.

From 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, (July 1) and Aug. 5, aspiring artists of all skill levels and ages can drop in to sketch an image of their favorite item in any of the museum’s galleries.

Thanks to a grant from the Lafayette Oxford Foundation for Tomorrow, free sketch materials will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis. Visitors can bring their own sketchbooks. Drawing stools will also be available for sketchers to sit or stand closer to their inspiration.

So come practice your art skills while viewing amazing artifacts and works of art!

For more information, visit

New UM Museum Exhibit Highlights Antiquities Collection

Most Greek and Roman artifacts included have not been on display in at least six years

Gods and Men features artifacts from the UM Museum's David M. Robinson permanent collection, such as this sculpture of Emperor Tiberius.

‘Gods and Men’ features artifacts from the UM Museum’s David M. Robinson permanent collection, such as this bust of Emperor Tiberius.

OXFORD, Miss. – Dozens of ancient Greek and Roman artifacts are coming out of the vault for “Gods and Men: Iconography and Identity of the Ancient World,” the newest exhibit at the University of Mississippi Museum, which debuts Tuesday (May 24) with an opening reception.

“Gods and Men” offers a preview of the extent of the David M. Robinson Greek and Roman Antiquities collection, more of which will be on display in the reinstalled Mary Buie wing of the museum.

The opening reception is set for 6-8 p.m. and will be part of the Oxford Arts Crawl. A Greek-themed menu catered by Party Waitin to Happen and Greek-inspired cocktail are available at the reception.

“The UM Museum’s summer exhibition ‘Gods and Men: Iconography and Identity in the Ancient World’ represents a significant moment in the history of the museum’s internationally-renowned Greek and Roman antiquities collections,” Director Robert Saarnio said. “The ‘Gods and Men summer exhibition represents a tip-of-the-iceberg view into the 2,000-object collection and is a perfect opportunity for potential supporters to familiarize themselves with the exceptional range and depth of these university cultural treasures.

“We expect this show to be a catalyst that will deepen the interest of our Oxford and campus communities in new and meaningful ways, as we plan for the exciting future that the reinstallation project represents.”

The temporary exhibit from the permanent collection vault highlights more than 200 artifacts, including terra cotta mythology lamps and figurines, coins, Roman surgical instruments, inscriptions, and sculptural heads and busts. Most of these items have not been on display for at least six years.

These items differ vastly from the Greek and Roman antiquities on regular display, and this exhibit includes narratives and anecdotes with each piece to provide historical context for it.

“This exhibit has been an opportunity to show the diversity of the collection in material and learning potential while also providing a preview of the visual look and reinterpretation that has been in development behind the scenes,” said Melanie Munns, the museum’s antiques collection manager and exhibit curator.

Munns said she hoped by displaying these smaller items along with magnifying glasses, viewers would be encouraged to look more intently at the artifacts.

“What many people don’t realize is that the coins and lamps also contain these rich narratives and beautiful illustrations,” Munns said. “I hoped that by isolating these smaller objects into groups set in wider spaces, that it will encourage viewers to look closer and stay longer.”

Planning for this exhibit has been a universitywide effort. Munns worked closely with the Department of Classics and student interns for three years to study and reinterpret the items in this collection.

UM faculty members Aileen Ajootian, Brad Cook, Jonathan Fenno, Hilary Becker and Jeffrey Becker and students Sarah Sloan, Libby Tyson, Alicia Dixon, Chelsea Stewart, Hali Niles and Zac Creel assisted with research to provide accurate historical context to these pieces.

Sloan, a May graduate from Madison with a bachelor’s degree in English and art history, has interned with the museum for two years to learn collections management, exhibition planning and curating. She assisted in researching, writing text for the artifacts, determining paint colors and organizing the exhibit.

“As an aspiring curator, my experience working on ‘Gods and Men’ has been invaluable,” Sloan said. “While working on ‘Gods and Men,’ I felt like my opinion was valued in the planning of this exhibit and that is something you do not always get with an internship. I feel like my hand was in ‘Gods and Men’ and that is immensely exciting for someone who is just out of undergrad.”

The exhibit includes the technology of an interactive iPad kiosk and would not be possible without the moral and financial support of Friends of the Museum, said Rebecca Phillips, the museum’s coordinator of membership and communications.

All visitors to the exhibit are encouraged to take photos and share them with the hashtag #UMGodsandMen and even take selfies with the bust of the Unknown Roman using hashtag #HadriansJohnDoe

The museum is continuing fundraising efforts for the installation of the Mary Buie wing, which is slated to house more items from the Robinson Collection. The first gallery there will showcase items in the near future as fundraising continues for the rest of the project.

Gifts in support of the reinstallation can be made on the museum’s website.

The museum will also host programs later this summer to highlight the exhibit. Eta Sigma Phi and the Vasari Society will partner with the museum Aug. 19 for a toga trivia night, moderated by Ole Miss art history and classics professors.

On Aug. 24, the museum will host a panel discussion that focuses on the exhibition as well as the permanent collection of Greek and Roman antiquities. Former museum director and retired classics professor Lucy Turnbull will be the guest of honor. Turnbull assisted in moving the Robinson collection from Bondurant Hall to the museum in 1977.

University Museum, at the corner of University Avenue and Fifth Street, is open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays. Admission is free to most exhibits. More information about the University Museum and its exhibits can be found at

UM Museum to Host Educational Summer Camps for Children

Sessions available for variety of interests and ages

The UM Museum will host summer camps for all ages during June and July.

The UM Museum will host summer camps for all ages during June and July.

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi Museum will host educational summer day camps for children of all ages throughout June and July.

The weeklong camps, broken down into age groups, allow children to learn the ins and outs of the museum and create their own masterpieces inspired by current exhibits.

“Museum camps are a fun and educational way for kids to experience the museum and experiment with a wide range of artistic mediums,” said Emily McCauley, the museum’s curator of education. “Each week, we will explore a new theme, and children can register for one or more weeks of camp. Summers at the museum are a busy, fun time, and we can’t wait to make new discoveries through art this summer.”

Here is the full schedule of camps:

For Children Entering Preschool or Kindergarten

Meet Me at the Museum! Mini Master Summer Camp, 9-11 a.m. July 25-29 – This camp is for children ages 3 to 5. These mini masters will be ready to head back to preschool or kindergarten after making their own artworks inspired by toddler stories and art from the museum’s collections. An adult must accompany all participants, but one guardian can supervise multiple children. Coffee and snacks will be provided for parents or guardians.

For Children Entering Grades 1-5

Coast to Coast: American Art, 9 a.m.-noon June 13-17 – Children will learn about artists across America, including the West Coast art of Morris Graves, Southern folk art and art haven of New York City. Young artists will get to create their own masterpieces inspired by the work of great American artists.

Science and Art, 9 a.m.-noon June 20-24 – Young artists will explore art inspired by science and science that becomes art. Participants can explore nature and create their own art inspired by basic biology, physics and chemistry.

Tribal Art, 9 a.m.-noon June 27-July 1 – Children will view rare artifacts in the museum collection and learn about indigenous cultures from the United States, Panama, Australia and Ghana to inspire their own masterpieces.

Museum Mania, 9 a.m.-noon July 18-22 – During this camp, children will learn about the different jobs in a museum, as well as the ins and outs of the exhibits. Young artists will get to view the collection in the vault and then build and publicize their own miniature museum.

For Children Entering Grades 6-8

All About Art: Middle School Edition, 1-4 p.m. July 25-29 – Middle-schoolers will experiment with different types of art, including drawing, illustrating, painting and sculpture after drawing inspiration from UM Museum collections and exhibits.

Each weeklong camp costs $60 for museum members at the Family level and above and $80 for nonmembers. All supplies and snacks are included.

A limited number of need-based scholarships are available. Families can request a scholarship application by contacting McCauley at 662-915-7205 or

Space is limited and registration is online only. Click here to register your child for a camp. A computer for registration is available at the museum front desk, if needed.

Friends of the Museum Seeks Harvest Supper Sponsors

Support group explores support for popular event

Friends of the Museum members (from left) Joy Clark, Mary Solomon, Donna Gottshall, Mary Ann Frugé, Dorothy Howorth and John Hardy are working on plans for the Harvest Supper, the main fundraising event that supports the University of Mississippi Museum.

Friends of the Museum members (from left) Joy Clark, Mary Solomon, Donna Gottshall, Mary Ann Frugé, Dorothy Howorth and John Hardy are working on plans for the Harvest Supper, the main fundraising event that supports the University of Mississippi Museum.

OXFORD, Miss. – If a Southern writer looked out a window of Rowan Oak, home of the late novelist William Faulkner, the gathering taking place on the front lawn on a crisp September evening might inspire a scene in a novel or short story.

The sense of community created as people gather under the stars enjoying locally grown food and gentle music would not only be appealing for a writer, but also for participants. That’s why so many people are drawn to the Friends of the Museum’s Harvest Supper, the only evening fundraising event hosted annually at Rowan Oak.

The fifth annual Harvest Supper is Sept. 22, the Thursday before the Ole Miss Rebels’ SEC football game with the Georgia Bulldogs.

Friends of the Museum members are seeking sponsors for the dinner, which has become one of the signature events of the Lafayette-Oxford-University community’s fall season. Previous Harvest Suppers have sold out, and the 2015 event attracted more than $100,000 in support for the University Museum.

The 2016 event will be no exception, said Carlyle Wolfe, president of the Friends of the Museum, a volunteer organization that supports museum fundraising, advocacy and special programing.

“Harvest Supper, our main fundraiser, has quickly become an extremely popular event among area residents and Ole Miss alumni and friends here for a football weekend,” Wolfe said.

“Proceeds from this annual event and the generosity of sponsors enable the Friends organization to address some of the tremendous opportunities and needs of the museum. It means so much to see community members interacting in the museum programs and exhibits and attending this community-building dinner.”

Robert Saarnio, director of the University Museum and Historic Houses, voiced his appreciation for the support that comes from the event.

“Harvest Supper is a quintessential moment in the annual calendar of the museum and Rowan Oak, as it is for the community of supporters who sustain us,” Saarnio said. “Without the Friends of the Museum’s dedication to this magical evening and the generosity of myriad sponsors and attendees, so much of what we offer to our audiences would simply not be possible.

“This extraordinary event inspires us as a staff, and fosters an invaluable degree of good will for the museum and its historic houses – for which we are immensely grateful.”

Joy Clark, vice president of the Friends and chair of the Harvest Supper, revealed a few event changes designed to enhance participants’ dining experience.

“We are hosting the event a month earlier than usual, and participants can expect expanded food choices, and the live art auction will be accompanied by a silent art auction,” Clark said. “We will continue featuring two musical groups for the entertainment. The whole evening is being planned as a welcoming and enticing experience, and we are excited to share plans with prospective sponsors and participants alike.”

The Harvest Supper was born out of a need to host a major fundraiser instead of seeking financial support each time the museum has a need, said Dorothy Howorth, a board member and former president of the Friends. Part of the Harvest Supper proceeds is being used to build a permanent endowment for the University Museum.

“The University Museum is the only museum in north Mississippi with such an extensive and diverse collection of art and artifacts that are accessible to all in the area,” Howorth said.

“There is also the cultural and physical aspect: the unique circumstance that puts the museum squarely in the middle between the town and the university. The museum is used by the Oxford community, the university and all across north Mississippi. Harvest Supper helps the community give back to this valuable asset.”

Howorth points to the two upcoming exhibitions as examples. “Gods and Men: Iconography and Identity in the Ancient World,” May 10-Aug. 24, will showcase some of the museum’s David M. Robinson Collection of Greek and Roman Antiquities, one of the finest university collections of its kind in the United States, covering the period from 1500 B.C. to 300 A.D.

“The Beautiful Mysterious: The Extraordinary Gaze of William Eggleston,” Sept. 13-Jan. 14, will focus on the work of Eggleston, an internationally renowned photographer and a pioneer in fine art color photography.

The Harvest Supper continues to provide a platform to promote the collections and programs available at the University Museum, which was recently named No. 12 on the Best College Arts Museum ranking by Best College Reviews, with Yale University’s museum earning the No. 11 place and Princeton University at No. 14.

Mary Ann Frugé, a Friends of the Museum board member, says when it comes to the museum, she wants sponsors and participants to know that a gift of any size can “do a huge amount of good.”

“The University Museum is a treasure in our community, and it is exciting for us to see more and more people of all ages involved in its programs on a regular basis,” Frugé said. “Harvest Supper is a tremendous undertaking each year, but it comes together thanks to a very dedicated group of board members who want to see the arts continually enhanced. We will be seeking sponsors for this amazing event now and will make tickets available for sale in August.”

Individuals, businesses and other organizations can become Harvest Supper sponsors at these levels:

  • Presenting Level: $10,000 and up
  • Platinum Level: $5,000 to $10,000
  • Gold Level: $2,500 to $5,000
  • Silver Level: $1,000 to $2,500
  • Bronze Level: $500 to $1,000

Sponsors will be listed on the 550 event invitations mailed in August as well as included in news articles, website and social media posts, electronic newsletters and other communications on the event. The various sponsorship levels also provide tickets to the Harvest Supper, admission passes to Rowan Oak, membership to the University Museum and much more.

Proceeds from the evening will help support numerous aspects of the University Museum, including acquisitions, the “Conversations” guest lecture series, exhibitions, educational programming and special events. The event also generates awareness about the ongoing needs to maintain and operate Rowan Oak and the Walton-Young Historic House, also managed by the museum.

For more information on becoming a Harvest Supper sponsor, contact Joy Clark at For more information on becoming a member of the University Museum – with membership levels ranging from $25 for students, $45 for individuals and more – or for those interested in supporting the museum, contact Rebecca Phillips at or 662-915-7073.

The University Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, and admission is free.

Artist to Paint Outdoor Sculpture at UM Museum

Public invited to watch transformation of piece

Mia Kaplan giving an outdoor lecture on her process of creating "Swamp Flower"

Mia Kaplan gives an outdoor lecture on her process of creating ‘Swamp Flower.’

OXFORD, Miss. – Artist Mia Kaplan will return to Oxford this weekend to paint her outdoor sculpture that was installed last fall on the front lawn of the University of Mississippi Museum.

The artist plans to paint from 8 a.m. to noon Friday (April 22) and then cover the piece with a glossy coat on Saturday morning. This will be an outdoor event for all ages in the community to drop by and experience the sculpture’s transformation.

The sculpture, “Swamp Flower,” was inspired by the resilience and mystery of water lilies that grow near Kaplan’s home, she said.

“I’m inspired by how something that appears so delicate can be so strong, and how many things that seem strong are in fact delicate in the grand scheme of things,” Kaplan said.

Rebecca Phillips, the museum’s membership, events, and communications coordinator, said she hopes a good crowd will come watch the process.

“The raw metal flower will now become bright-colored and will give the museum lawn a vibrant feel and look,” Phillips said.

Kaplan said she is eager to be back in Oxford to take on this new project and to be able to discuss the completed art with friends.

“I get chills being on the campus of U of M and was thoroughly inspired by the landscape surrounding William Faulkner’s home, the sloping trails and canopies of trees,” Kaplan said. “It’s a wild place.”

As a Southern artist who works primarily in organic forms, Kaplan said nature is what makes the most sense to her. She is interested in recording things from the perspective of a naturalist.

“Nature is something that many people relate to as a metaphor for humanity,” Kaplan said.

UM Museum Named Among Nation’s Best Collegiate Collections

Survey notes facility's diverse holdings and outreach programs

Best College Reviews has named The University of Mississippi Museum one of the nation's best collegiate art museums and also the top in the Southeastern Conference. UM's museum ranked no. 12 on a list of the top 35 collegiate art museums.

Best College Reviews has named University Museum one of the nation’s best collegiate art museums and also the top in the Southeastern Conference. UM’s museum ranked No. 12 among the top 35 collegiate museums.

OXFORD, Miss. – Best College Reviews has named the University of Mississippi Museum and its large collection of folk art, Greek and Roman antiquities and other artifacts as one of the nation’s best collegiate art museums.

UM’s museum ranked No. 12 on a list of the top 35 collegiate art museums. Harvard University’s museum topped the list, which besides Ole Miss, included only one other Southeastern Conference school museum, the University of Florida’s, which came in at No. 31.

University Museum ranks ahead of those at other large and prestigious universities, including Notre Dame, Virginia, Princeton, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Dartmouth, Duke and Stanford.

Robert Saarnio, director of the University Museum & Historic Houses, said he and his staff are “exceptionally proud” of the recognition. 

“We work determinedly to provide our community with very high-quality exhibitions, programs and educational opportunities, so it’s gratifying and humbling to have the national recognition we’ve received,” Saarnio said. “This is truly a tribute to the extraordinarily talented museum staff, the Office of the Provost, which supports us, the Friends of the Museum board, who sustain us, and all of our members and stakeholders, who inspire us daily.”

The survey touts UM’s art museum as offering “something for everyone.” It notes that since the museum opened in 1939, it has offered the community a broad range of outreach programs, after-school programs, adult education and events, making it more than “just a collection of art.”

“Visitors may tour two historic houses, including William Faulkner’s home, and then meander back to the Museum’s vast collection of Greek and Roman antiquities, folk art collection, or a display of over five-hundred 19th century scientific instruments,” the survey notes. “These include telescopes and models of large machines as well as a demonstration of the devices for teaching the sciences. Combined with their ever-changing exhibitions, the University of Mississippi Museum ranks high.”

The recognition reflects that the museum is in a period of momentum and growing influence as it passes its 75th anniversary, which was in 2014, Saarnio said. He credits support from the chancellor’s and provost offices, which have helped the museum’s budget increase incrementally, to add more staff.

“Of all that growth, certainly that which we are proudest of are the educational impacts we have for both the university and general public communities,” Saarnio said. “One example, of many, being the more than 10,000 school children and youth we serve annually through a wide spectrum of creative and dynamic educational programs.”

The recognition helps increase the museum’s visibility, which helps its reputation in the community of peer museums. This could make other museums more eager to form partnerships to host shared traveling exhibitions or develop collaborative programs, Saarnio said. 

The ranking is further proof of the university’s momentum in all areas, said UM Athletics Director Ross Bjork, a fan of the museum.

“Being ranked in the top 25 on a consistent basis means that our athletic teams are competing for and pursuing championships,” Bjork said. “In the same vein, it is only fitting that our beloved University Museum is now ranked in the top 25.

“This is yet another example of the great momentum and forward movement happening all over the University of Mississippi campus, and I am proud to call Robert a colleague and can’t wait to see what they do next.”

New Museum Collection Features Poetry and Photos

Thursday reading at gallery to feature contributing poets, photograher

Picture 001

This photograph is among the images in the collection, which will be on display through June 25 at the University Museum.

OXFORD, Miss. – The newest exhibit at the University of Mississippi Museum is a collaboration of poetry and photography inspired by Langston Hughes’ award-winning poem “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” and the museum is hosting a special reading Thursday (March 3) to celebrate it.

“Of Rivers: Photography by Young Suh, Poetry edited by Chiyuma Elliott and Katie Peterson” features 11 poems accompanied by photographs that interpret them. It runs through June 25 in the museum’s Lower Skipwith Gallery.

The museum is partnering with the Center for the Study of Southern Culture and its 23rd Conference for the Book, for a poetry reading at 3:30 p.m. Thursday (March 3) in the gallery. Many of the poets who contributed to “Of Rivers,” including Jericho Brown, Chiyuma Elliott, Derrick Harriell and Katie Peterson, as well as photographer Young Suh, will participate in the reading, which is free and open to the public.

The reading will be followed by an opening reception from 4:30 to 6 p.m.

“Almost 100 years after it was written, Hughes’ ‘The Negro Speaks of Rivers’ still inspires writers to think about how to live and what to do,” said Rebecca Phillips, the museum’s coordinator for membership, exhibits and communication. “‘Of Rivers’ invites the viewer to be part of that conversation. It invites them to discover and contemplate – and hopefully also delight in – some of the new creative work that responds to this famous and important poem.

The exhibit started when organizers asked eight poets of differing styles and sensibilities to write something in response to Hughes’s 1921 poem. The participating poets are F. Douglas Brown, of Los Angeles; Jericho Brown, of Atlanta; Katie Ford, of Los Angeles; Rachel Eliza Griffiths, of Brooklyn, New York; Derrick Harriell, of Oxford; Dong Li, of Nanjing, China and Stuttgart, Germany; Sandra Lim, of Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Michael C. Peterson, of Cincinnati.

Suh, of Cerrito, California, was asked to visually respond to all the poems.

“What you experience in the gallery is the result of this collaboration: a literary and visual call and response,” Phillips said.

Because the artists featured in the exhibit can take for granted that readers and viewers know the relationship with the Hughes poem exists, some of their work foregoes explicit signals of connection, she said.

“Most of the poems and photographs have some things in common: they are specific, personal and idiosyncratic, not magisterial, or mythic or universal. These creative responses to Hughes focus on the unruly facts of the world. They are shape-shifting – sometimes autobiographical – narratives that begin with a big problem and tend to resist closure.”

The University Museum, at the intersection of University Avenue and Fifth Street, is open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. For more information on upcoming exhibitions and events, visit and follow the museum on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

University’s Arts and Culture Compel Giving

Californian Phil Swan's visits to the Oxford campus become mutually rewarding

Attending the Sept. 11, 2014, annual members night featuring the exhibition 'Our Faith Affirmed: Works from the Gordon W. Bailey Collection' at the University Museum are, from left, Phil Swan's sister Sara Swan, then-Chancellor Dan Jones, Mike Edmonds' sister Judy Edmonds, Mike Edmonds, Phil Swan and Swan's sister Karen Steen.

Attending the Sept. 11, 2014, annual members night featuring the exhibition ‘Our Faith Affirmed: Works from the Gordon W. Bailey Collection’ at the University Museum are, from left, Phil Swan’s sister Sara Swan, then-Chancellor Dan Jones, Mike Edmonds’ sister Judy Edmonds, Mike Edmonds, Phil Swan and Swan’s sister Karen Steen.

OXFORD, Miss. – Time after time, visitors to the University of Mississippi fall in love with the hospitable personalities of its people, the beauty of the majestic Grove and historic buildings, the palpable energy that radiates from its arenas and playing fields, and the breadth of its arts and culture.

It was the latter that attracted Phil Swan and ultimately inspired him to offer financial support to both Rowan Oak and the University Museum, though his only connection to Ole Miss is a friend who invited him to campus.

Swan, who lives in Pasadena, California, is director of investor relations for Griffis Residential, a multifamily real estate investment company that owns and manages some 7,000 Class-A apartment units in Colorado, Nevada, Texas and Washington. He also happens to serve on the board of trustees for Colorado College, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history in 1984.

“My connection to Ole Miss is through my good, good friend and dean of students at Colorado College, Mike Edmonds,” Swan said. “I first supported Ole Miss five years ago when I made a memorial gift to the Hattie Mae Edmonds Fund” – a fund established by Edmonds’ friends both at Colorado College and at Ole Miss to honor his mother after her death in 2010. The fund supports the University Museum.

Many UM alumni remember Edmonds, the gregarious assistant dean of students who worked in the late ’80s alongside Dean of Students Judy Trott and Associate Dean of Students Sparky Reardon. His passion and love for Ole Miss are as big and as infectious as his personality.

“Ole Miss means so much to me and provided such a wealth of opportunity,” said Edmonds, who earned bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from Ole Miss in 1984, 1985 and 1990, respectively. “I’m excited to be able to see those same opportunities being created for current students.”

Likewise, Swan grew to love Ole Miss when he traveled with Edmonds to represent Colorado College at the official opening of the Hattie Mae Edmonds Gallery at the University Museum in 2010. He and Edmonds have returned time and again to the Oxford campus, bringing family and friends to attend football games and enjoy the experience of pre-game revelry in the Grove.

Edmonds says he is humbled by Swan’s generosity.

“Ole Miss is a very special place and Phil Swan is a very special man, one who understands and is committed to philanthropy and education and also one who appreciates quality,” he said. “I’m humbled and I’m proud of Phil’s sense of philanthropy, his dedication and commitment to education and the arts. I’m overwhelmed and blessed by his desire to give to a place I’m proud to call home.”

Swan’s gift to the Hattie Mae Edmonds Fund helped finance the publication of the exhibit catalog for “Our Faith Affirmed: Works from the Gordon W. Bailey Collection.” The exhibition, which was organized and curated by Bailey, opened in September 2014 and garnered worldwide attention.

“We are grateful to Mr. Bailey for the opportunity to host this extraordinary exhibition which, with an 11-month run, became one of the longest the museum has had.” said Angela Brown Barlow, director of development for the museum, the University Libraries and the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. “It proves that the exhibits within our relatively small museum are of the quality that can attract donors like Mr. Bailey and Mr. Swan. Working with Phil has been one of my favorite donor experiences because of his deep passion for art.”

In 2013, Swan introduced his father to the university and enjoyed lunch at Rowan Oak while touring the historic home of legendary author William Faulkner. He returned again in 2014 with his sisters and again in 2015 with three friends from California.

“(Curator) Bill Griffith conducted wonderful tours and dialogue each time,” said Swan, who recently made a second gift to UM in support of Rowan Oak, where Colorado College incidentally sponsors an annual class on Faulkner’s work.

“As a Faulkner fan, I fell in love with the place and the work Bill is doing there. I hope my gift will help take care of some of Rowan Oak’s most pressing preservation needs.”

Griffith, curator of Rowan Oak, said Swan’s gift was used to buy much-needed tools for the daily maintenance of the renowned landmark.

“As you can imagine, with an old house like this, things break every day,” Griffith said. “Phil is a very observant person. He saw me struggling with some of the projects out here. They’re not big enough to hire a contractor, but if you want to do it right, you really need the right tools. And these are things we will use for years and years to come.”

Rowan Oak has a great need for private support, Griffith said.

“Unrestricted gifts between $1,000 and $5,000 are my favorite gifts because I can really do something with them,” he said. “When Rowan Oak receives an unrestricted gift, it enables us to jump on a project right away. For example, we are currently doing a major renovation to a part of the house that was closed. Having these tools will allow us to do the work ourselves and get the project done quickly.”

Individuals and organizations can make gifts to support Rowan Oak or the University Museum by mailing a check with the designation noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655; visiting or contacting Angela Barlow, development officer, at 662-915-3181 or

For additional information about the “Our Faith Affirmed: Works from the Gordon W. Bailey Collection,” visit

Oxford Conference for the Book Brings Variety of Authors to UM

Poets, journalists, scholars and readers coming to campus March 2-4 for free event

Ed Larson

Ed Larson

OXFORD, Miss. – Pulitzer Prize-winning authors, as well as first-time novelists, are part of the variety of legendary and debut writers hosted at the Oxford Conference for the Book, set for March 2-4. Poets, journalists, scholars and readers will visit the University of Mississippi for the 23rd conference.

The three-day event, which is free and open to the public, includes readings, panel discussions and lectures.

The conference is a great way for Oxford visitors and locals to explore the town and the university, said James G. Thomas Jr., conference director.

“We try to open doors with this conference, both literally and metaphorically,” said Thomas, associate director of publications at the UM Center for the Study of Southern Culture.

“By that I mean the sessions open up doors for thought and inquiry, and the venues we’re hav­ing them in are places that some Oxford residents, stu­dents, and visitors may not have had the opportunity to explore, such as the Lafayette County courthouse, the Barksdale-Isom House, the UM library’s Faulkner Room and even the University Museum.”

This year’s writers include novelists Rick Bass, Bobbie Ann Mason, Margaret McMullan, Robert Gipe, Taylor Brown and UM Grisham Writer in Residence Kiese Laymon; Mississippi historians Minion K.C. Morrison and Dennis Mitchell; historian and gender studies scholar LaKisha Michelle Simmons; poets Richard Katrovas, Rebecca Morgan Frank, Caki Wilkinson, Jericho Brown, Katie Peterson, Chiyuma Elliott and UM professors Beth Ann Fennelly and Derrick Harriell; histori­an Mark Essig; literary scholar Vereen Bell; and Pulitzer Prizewinners journalist Sheri Fink and historian Edward J. Larson.

Larson, professor of law at Pepperdine University, is the author of nine books, the most recent of which, “The Return of George Washington,” was on The New York Times bestseller list in 2015. He has lectured on all seven continents.

“I love Oxford, I have been for tailgating in the Grove since back when I was on the University of Georgia’s athletic board and the SEC was a 10-team conference,” Larson said. “Oxford has the best catfish anywhere. What I want to do next in Mississippi is to bike the Natchez Trace.”

Margaret McMullan

Margaret McMullan

Wednesday’s and Thursday’s events will take place in the auditorium of the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics, and the conference will begin with a lecture and free luncheon, sponsored by the Friends of the Library, in the Faulkner Room in Archives and Special Collections in the J.D. Williams Library, also on the UM campus. Friday’s panels and readings will take place in the main courtroom of the historic Lafayette County courthouse on the Oxford Square.

Lyn Roberts, general manager at Square Books, calls the conference a celebration of books for everyone.

“The Oxford Conference for the Book has a history and tradition of bringing authors, both debut and established, to Oxford and the University of Mississippi, allowing everyone in the community and anyone who wants to travel the opportunity to hear them read from their works and discuss books,” Roberts said.

Conference panels will explore a wide range of topics, in­cluding Mississippi history; childhood in the South; mem­oir writing; youth, activism, and life in the Mountain South; poetic responses to Langston Hughes; Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Go Set a Watchman”; the Hurricane Katrina crisis; America’s continuing debate over science and religion; and a cultural and culi­nary history of the pig.

“I’m excited to introduce Mark Essig to the OCB audience,” said Sara Camp Milam, who will moderate Friday’s 10:30 a.m. panel, sponsored by the Southern Foodways Alliance. “His work is as engaging as it is educational. ‘Lesser Beasts’ was one of my favorite food studies books of 2015. For students thinking about how to make their academic work accessible to a general audience, I’d recommend attending this session.”

A new event this year is a poetry session paired with an art exhibition by photographer Youngsuk Suh. At 4:30 p.m. Thursday, following the “Poetic Responses to Langston Hughes” session, the University Museum will host a free recep­tion.

“Thacker Mountain Radio” will host a special Oxford Conference for the Book show at 6 p.m. Thursday at Off Square Books, 129 Courthouse Square, featuring conference authors and visiting musicians. The day’s authors will be there to meet conference attendees and sign books. Each afternoon following the sessions, Square Books will host book signings for that day’s authors.

Mark Essig

Mark Essig

The Children’s Book Festival will be held March 4 at the Ford Center for Performing Arts, with more than 1,200 first- and fifth-graders from area schools. Laurie Keller, author of “The Scrambled States of America,” will present at 9 a.m. for first graders, and Holly Goldberg Sloan, author of “Counting by 7s,” will present at 10:30 a.m. for fifth graders. The Lafayette County Literacy Council sponsors the first-grade program and the Junior Auxiliary of Oxford spon­sors the fifth-grade program.

Four special social events are set on the Ole Miss campus and in town. On March 2, the Friends of the J.D. Williams Library will host an opening lunch beginning at 11 a.m. in Archives and Special Collections. The lunch is free, but reservations are appreciated. That evening is the gala opening-night cocktail reception-dinner at 6:30 p.m. in the historic Barksdale-Isom House, 1003 Jefferson Ave. A portion of the $50 ticket proceeds is tax-deductible.

At noon March 4, the Lafayette County and Oxford Public Library will host a poetry talk and lunch with poet Richard Katrovas. Both the lunch and talk are free, but reservations are appreciated.

The Oxford Conference for the Book is sponsored by the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, Square Books, Southern Documentary Project, Southern Foodways Alliance, Living Blues magazine, University Museum, Lafayette County Literacy Council, UM Department of English, J.D. Williams Library, Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics, Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, John and Renée Grisham Visiting Writers Fund, Junior Auxiliary of Oxford, Lafayette County and Oxford Public Library, Southern Literary Trail and the Pulitzer Centennial Campfires Initiative.

The conference is partially funded by the university, a contribution from the R&B Feder Foundation for the Beaux Arts, grants from the Mississippi Humanities Council and promotional support from Visit Oxford.

To see a full schedule of events, visit or contact James G. Thomas Jr. at 662-915-3374 or