BY ERIN KOURKOUNIS
STARKVILLE – Known as the college town in the middle of nowhere, Starkville is home to Mississippi State University and its 17,000-plus student body.
However, Starkville is also known for its nationally recognized historic Cotton District – the neighborhood inspired by Mayor Dan Camp that's laden with European and Victorian influences and brightly painted buildings.
MSU is well-known for its agriculture, and the school produces its own cheese, milk, ice cream, jelly, juice and wine. But it's also home to one of the largest collections of instruments, recordings and sheet music in the country.
The Charles H. Templeton Sr. Music Museum is on the fourth floor of the Mitchell Memorial Library on the MSU campus.
The late Templeton, who owned Templeton Oldsmobile in Starkville, always loved music.
He played the oboe in the Starkville High School band and went on to play the piccolo and oboe in MSU's Famous Maroon Band. He graduated from MSU in 1949.
A New Century music box, circa 1890s, was the collection's first piece.
Templeton's wife, Mary Ann, found it in the 1950s in a thrift store, where it was being used as a doorstop. The horn is papier-m‰chŽ and it runs on a sewing machine motor. It was manufactured by Mermod Freres in Switzerland.
“It's one out of six in the country that are still playing,” said library employee Jane Gray Wiggers.
Templeton donated his collection to the college in 1987.
In 2004, his wife provided the funding to renovate rooms in the library and in March 2006, the Music Museum that's here today opened.
Music junkie's paradise
Music junkies and history buffs of all ages will love Templeton's 200-instrument music collection, “The Business of Music,” which is located in the quaint four-room museum.
“It's a closed collection in that nothing will be added to it, but it's open to the public to come see and use any time,” said Lyle Tate, coordinator of special events for MSU Libraries.
The collection includes many of Thomas Edison's early model phonographs. Along with Edison pieces, the museum houses Victor Talking Machine instruments, adorned with the famous “nipper” dog logo. Accordions, organs and a harp can also be found here.
Tours are available, but visitors are also free to roam the museum as they please.
Glass cabinets that house sheet music fill the entire back wall of the museum's third room. Templeton collected 22,000 pieces of sheet music, which are switched out periodically and displayed 50 at a time by theme.
“Right now there's a ragtime theme because of the Ragtime Festival held here every March,” Russell said.
The Templeton Ragtime Festival, sponsored by the museum, consists of concerts, museum tours and question-and answer-sessions with international artists.
The sheet music collection in its entirety can be found in the special collections section of the library, which is open for the public to browse.
Ben Bounds, coordinator of member relations and communications for the Greater Starkville Development Partnership, said the museum is not only an asset to the university, but to the city of Starkville and Oktibbeha County.
“From a cultural standpoint,” he said, it's not like anything else in the state of Mississippi because it focuses on a genre of music that doesn't get a lot of attention.”
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