By GWEN SISSON
What began as an experiment to share in a national treasure has now become an exhibit housed within the Starkville community.
If Monday night’s attendance at the opening reception is any indication, the special exhibit, “Around the World with President Ulysses S. Grant and Julia Grant” will be well received in the community.
Scholars and history enthusiasts joined community leaders to view the collaborative exhibit at the Starkville Public Library, featuring the items from the Grant Collection from the Mitchell Memorial Library on the Mississippi State University campus. Starkville Public Library Director Ginny Holtcamp welcomed the crowd to the opening reception of the experimental collaboration.
Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman this project was an experiment from the beginning.
“With so many of you here tonight, we can consider this idea a success,” Wiseman said. “It is a marvelous evening for us as a community. Having this collection at MSU in our community is important. We have a national treasure right here in our community. Sharing that collection will be a very, very fruitful experience.”
MSU President Mark Keenum said housing the Grant Collection is quite an honor for MSU, as well as the state of Mississippi.
“We are thrilled to be one of a few universities to house a presidential collection,” Keenum said. “It is quite a treasure.”
Keenum said when discussing the collection, people will always ask, “Why Grant?”
“I always say, what other state did more to propel his career?” Keenum said.
Keenum shared the history of MSU’s first president, Stephen Lee, who served as an advocate for reconciliation after the Civil War. Keenum also shared Lee’s passion for the preservation of history, and feels Lee would be proud that MSU was given the honor of housing the Grant Collection.
“This is an honor we want to share with as many people as we can,” Keenum said.
Dr. John Marszalek, executive director for the Ulysses S. Grant Association, said he hopes the exhibit will be the first of many events to share the collection.
Marszalek also credited local historian and Civil War re-enactor Duffy Neubauer for his work in bringing the idea of sharing the Grant Collection with the Starkville community.
Frances Coleman, MSU’s dean of libraries, said the exhibit is just the first of many future collaborative efforts between the campus and local libraries.
Dr. Michael Ballard, archivist and Congressional Center Coordinator for MSU Libraries introduced his friend Terrence Winschel, historian from the Vicksburg National Military Park.
Winschel kept the crowd mesmerized with his lecture, “Ulysses S. Grant in Mississippi.” He detailed Grant’s lack-luster military beginnings, his recognition in the Mexican War, his marriage to the love of his life, on to the Battle of Vicksburg.
He said Grant was best remembered for his military career, where he specialized in speed, maneuverability and the indirect approach.
“There is no doubt that Grant was a modern soldier in every sense of the word,” Winschel said. “And it was in Mississippi where he developed into a great captain.”
For more information on the Grant exhibit, go to the Starkville Public Library during regular library hours or call at 323-2766.