Behind the scenes of the University of Mississippi Museum


Juliette St. Romain
Oxford Stories

There are a lot of beautiful things right under your nose if you just take time to look. Many can be found in the University of Mississippi Museum.

The museum houses many types of art, from Greek to Southern folk. It also includes two houses. One is writer William Faulkner’s house, Rowan Oak.

The other located next to the museum is the Walton-Young House. Famous novelist and playwright, Stark Young, lived here, and the Victorian-era home became part of the museum in 1998.

front entrance

Photo By Juliette St. Romain.

The museum has multiple galleries with oil paintings, photographs, sculptures. You feel like you are at a high end art gallery in Manhattan.

Kansas native Marti Funke collections manager, has been working here for six years. She grew up around art. She enjoys the scholarly side of it and the continuous learning that comes with the job.

In the field for more than 10 years, Funke’s job title extends beyond collections manager. She is also the curator and exhibition coordinator for the museum.

“It is different every day,” she said. “We definitely do not have the same schedule. Between planning for exhibitions to come in, go down, loans going in and out, traveling exhibitions, and hosting guest artist and lectures. It is always different.”

The museum’s exhibitions have traveled all over the country. From New Mexico, Washington, California, New York, Florida, and Atlanta, Funke has seen it all. Her favorite was the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibition in Upstate New York, a retrospective about her work. One of the museum’s paintings was selected for the show.

Funke said her favorite exhibit has been visiting artist, Ben Butler, a Memphis sculptor. “His work is really interesting, and it was so nice to have 3-D work on the floor in the gallery as opposed to the traditional 2-D. It was very different.”

Butler’s sculptures are made from cement and wood. Some are molded while others are cut. He makes repetitive cuts with slight alterations, each on a different level. He then puts them back together to create 3-D pieces.

“They are very incredible,” said Funke.

As far as the in-house permanent collection, Funke enjoys William Eggleston’s photograph, Beautiful Mysterious. The photograph has a blue haze over the scene of two cars in a parking lot. This adds a dark and eerie feel to the image.

Her favorite artist is sculptor Louise Nevelson, who does large wood and metal installations and sculptures.

“Oxford has a lot of resident artists (who) live in town and in the area, but hopefully, we bring in new artists and people (who) Oxford has never heard of or seen before. We try to constantly change it up and bring in nationally recognized artists, as well as regional, so there is a little bit of everything.”

Funke doesn’t have a favorite type of art. She thinks it depends on the artist and medium surrounding her at the time.

“Currently, we have tapestries that are hand woven,” she said. “We’ve got paintings that are painted on photographs, so there is a really big mix and a little bit of everything.”

Kendall Burrell, who has been working as the museum’s receptionist for over a year now, said Funke is hard working. “She goes over the moon and does so much for the museum,” she said. “We are very glad to have her.”

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