Mississippi Magazine Honors Rowan Oak as ‘Best Historic Site 2020’

UM Museum property tops statewide ranking of notable sites

Mississippi Magazine has named Rowan Oak as the ‘Best Historic Site 2020’ in its annual Best of Mississippi awards. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss – Rowan Oak, the home of legendary author and Mississippi native William Faulkner, recently was named as the “Best Historic Site 2020” in Mississippi Magazine’s annual Best of Mississippi awards.

The home and property, which are managed by the University of Mississippi as part of the University Museums and Historic Houses, offer a glimpse into the life of Faulkner, one of the most celebrated and studied authors in the world.

“It always is a badge of honor,” said Robert Saarnio, the museum’s director. “It is deeply gratifying to work so hard, as the staff does every day; they are just so talented. To see the recognition by your peers, it repeatedly gets honored for every good reason because it is so distinctive.”

What makes Rowan Oak different from other “house” museums is that each room and item inside and outside the house and 4-acre estate is intact and original, all left by Faulkner after his death, Saarnio said.

“Rowan Oak is entirely furnished as Faulkner last saw it,” he said.

With COVID-19 still prevalent, Rowan Oak and the University Museum are taking health precautions and following the university’s safety measures. The University Museum is offering limited access for Ole Miss personnel to galleries and exhibitions by appointment only. Rowan Oak is closed, except for the grounds and the Bailey Woods Trail, both of which are open to the public.

Despite the limitations and challenges presented by COVID-19, the statewide award continues to place Rowan Oak as a must-see experience for Mississippians and visitors alike, said Stacy Bell, the museum’s curator of education.

“This award is so huge and powerful for Oxford and the community,” Bell said. “It really puts us on the map and adds relevance to (Rowan Oak and the museums).

“When you think of Oxford, you think of football, but we are so embedded in literacy and the authors that have come out of Oxford is incredible. I think coming to Rowan Oak opens the eyes that we are not just a football town, and there is history here.”

University Museum offers an array of holdings, including Southern folk art, Greek and Roman antiquities, 19th century scientific instruments and American fine art. The museum also manages Rowan Oak and the Walton-Young Historic House, which was once home to critic and satirist Stark Young.

University Museum is at the intersection of University Avenue and Fifth Street in Oxford. Hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday by appointment only. To make an appointment, visit http://museum.olemiss.edu or call 662-915-7073.