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UM Museum Recognized by Mississippi Heritage Trust

By Edwin B. Smith

University of Mississippi

Robert Saarnio (right) director of University of Mississippi Museum, accepts the 2022 Heritage Award from Kasey Adams, Mississippi Heritage Trust president, during the MHT annual conference Thursday (June 9) in Raymond. Submitted photo

For more than two decades, the University of Mississippi Museum has been the steward of Rowan Oak, Pulitzer Prize-winning author William Faulkner’s home and grounds, with the support of university leadership and the Facilities Management Department. 

The museum’s efforts were publicly recognized Thursday (June 9) with an award from one of the state’s premier historic preservation organizations.

The Heritage Award recognized the museum’s stewardship and oversight of Rowan Oak since the late 1990s. The honor, which includes a plaque, came during the statewide annual historic preservation conference of the Mississippi Heritage Trust in Raymond.

“Constructed circa 1840, Rowan Oak has an important story to tell about Mississippi and one of our most famous writers, William Faulkner,” said Lolly Rash, MHT executive director. “The Mississippi Heritage Trust is pleased to recognize the University Museum for its stewardship of this treasured historic place with a 2022 Heritage Award.”

The award is a tribute to more than two decades of daily direction by Rowan Oak’s curator, William Griffith, said Robert Saarnio, director of University Museum and Historic Houses.

“Bill is the reason this award is occurring, by dint of his leadership, vision and professionalism over so many years of dedicated service,” Saarnio said. “I have observed often that Bill Griffith is among a very small number of top-tier and most accomplished historic house museum curators in the nation. 

“I am proud and honored to be his colleague.”

Griffith said it has been a pleasure to serve as curator.

“I’m honored and humbled that Mississippi Heritage Trust has chosen to give Rowan Oak its preservation award,” Griffith said. “We’ve done a lot, but we still have a lot to do. This award will certainly go a long way in encouraging our efforts.”

Organized in 1992, the Mississippi Heritage Trust was formed by a group of preservationists who envisioned an organization that would work with local preservation groups and support their efforts to save Mississippi’s rich architectural legacy. Over its 30-year existence, MHT has created programs such as the 10 Most Endangered Historic Places in Mississippi, the Mississippi Historic Preservation Conference and Heritage Awards.

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