MDAH at work: Rowan Oak gets some TLC, too

Rowan Oak front elevation

Last week we took a tour of the exterior repairs on the Walton-Young House, one of the University of Mississippi’s museums.  This week, we’ll check out the exterior repairs at Rowan Oak.  Both projects are part of the same MDAH community heritage preservation grant, with Belinda Stewart Architects of Eupora handling the plans for the work.  The project includes masonry restoration and cleaning, roof repair, and painting the exterior among other items.  Since the bid was let for both projects, the general description does not specify if different work is being performed at each site, although clearly, painting has been on the agenda at Rowan Oak.  The estimated cost of both projects according to the bid specification from UM was $175,000-200,000.

The Rowan Oak Society

was established in 1999 under the auspices of the University of Mississippi Foundation to help raise funds for the preservation of Faulkner’s home.  While federal and state funds have assisted in the extensive restoration of the house and grounds, private funds are crucial to maintaining Rowan Oak in perpetuity…income generated from this endowment will be used for the ongoing restoration of Rowan Oak and the grounds. (The University of Mississippi Foundation, The Rowan Oak Society)

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Bill Griffith, the curator, is a 1989 graduate of Southern Illinois University.  In an interview with Tottenville Review, Griffith had this to say:

I think the purpose of author museums is the same as any history museum: we’re always looking for ways to involve ourselves in history.  People want to walk the same places that Faulkner walked, to roam the same halls.  You get to see here the tools he used to write Nobel Prize winning novels–those aren’t the kinds of things you get to see every day.  In general, I think it just adds to your experience of reading and thinking and wondering about these people. (Author Museum Interviews: William Faulkner’s Rowan Oak in Oxford, Mississippi, July 28, 2014)

I love that line about “we’re always looking for ways to involve ourselves in history” and it resonates, with preservation of that history and the physical elements of that history.  It is part of who we are, not just who we were.

Categories: 101 MissPres Places, Historic Preservation, Museums


8 replies

  1. Bill Griffith has done a tremendous job in leading the University towards professionalism in how it handles the Rowan Oak structures and collections, and in using the tangible relics at hand to more deeply engage visitors in the thoughts and experiences of William Faulkner. He has taken the site from its previous treatment as a sort of playground or perk for the English department to the kind of curatorial care and respect awarded to the homes of other significant authors: Carl Sandburg, for instance, and now Eudora Welty. Kudos!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Apparently, he has done an incredible work there. One item I read indicated how his engagement with visitors has resulted in donation of Faulkner artifacts, as well as moving visitors to an interest in Faulkner himself and his writing, once they have been involved in that tangible part of his life. I think that evidences the “ways to involve ourselves in history” that I liked so much.

      Thank you for recognizing and acknowledging his work!


  2. I like your last paragraph and share those sentiments. Indeed, history is what makes us who we are today; therefore, it becomes our future when we carry it forward.


  3. “Who are you, that does not know your history?”


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