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.”