Rowan Oak officials argue more is better

By Melanie Addington/Oxford Eagle

OXFORD — With more than 40,000 visitors a year, the University Museum and Rowan Oak already receive a lot of guests. With just a little effort, however, museum officials say these numbers could climb dramatically.

Museum officials are teaming up with the Oxford Tourism Council to develop a brochure which can be used to market the museum and the historic home of William Faulkner to a broader audience.

Meanwhile, William Andrews, the new curator of the museum, is also working on some bricks and mortar issues designed to improve the museum.

Rowan Oak receives about 23,000 visitors a year and the museum is toured by another 17,000. However, these visitors rarely visit both cultural attractions in the community.

Rowan Oak, located near the University of Mississippi campus, was bought by Faulkner in 1930. He renovated it while beginning his writing career. During the 1930s, Faulkner wrote most of his novels and continued the renovations. He died in 1962.

The University Museum opened in Oxford in 1939 as the Mary Buie Museum. The city of Oxford operated the museum from 1939 till 1974, when it was turned over to Ole Miss.

Andrews is hoping to change that with a new brochure focusing on the path between the two, Bailey’s Woods, and promoting both attractions to tourists as being worthy of a one- or two-day visit to Oxford.

“It is difficult to get them to cross-pollinate,” Andrews said of those who visit either the museums or Rowan Oak. “But we are attempting to have a blitz of collusion between the two through direct mail advertising and a widely distributed brochure in the region that would connect the two thematically.”

The new brochure will be mailed to 25,000 households and businesses from Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama to Texas, Florida and Georgia.

“We want to draw people to come here as a destination that they aren’t yet experiencing,” Andrews said. “The two are linked and we will highlight the trail between the two as a recreational experience between them.”

Bailey’s Woods, the wooded area between Rowan Oak and the University Museum features a short, well-maintained trail that connects the two cultural attractions.

The brochure will also include opportunities for other local businesses or cultural attractions to be highlighted as an insert within the brochure.

Although Andrews requested $3,724 to fund half the cost of the project, the Tourism Council, as it has done with the other grant requests made to it this year, agreed to provide $2,000 for the marketing initiative.

Andrews is also hoping to focus on bringing in more local visitors to the museum.

“We have a lot of people in town who don’t visit still,” Andrews said. “But the main focus is not for people who know we are there, but introduce ourselves to a broader community that doesn’t know we exist.”

Andrews said the museum has been managed as a small-town museum but, with more than 18,000 square feet, it’s a tremendous midlevel museum that has not yet been marketed for its resources. In helping to move toward an update, Andrews said the Mary Buie section, the original part of the museum, is also under renovation due to a leaking roof.