A $10 million addition to Mississippi State's Mitchell Memorial Library, home of the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library and the prestigious Frank and Virginia Williams Collection of Lincolniana, will be unveiled with a Nov. 30 celebration at the land-grant university.
The 21,000-sq.-ft. library addition contains a state-of-the-art museum chronicling Grant's life and his significance in American history and a gallery dedicated to the Frank and Virginia Williams Collection of Lincolniana, a recent donation considered the largest privately owned Abraham Lincoln collection in America. With hundreds of thousands of historical documents and items housed on site, the new addition makes Mississippi State a leading destination for research on the Civil War and two presidents who shaped the course of American history.
A 2 p.m. ceremony at the Grant Library on Thursday, Nov. 30, will officially open the new space. Invited guests include Archivist of the United States David Ferriero, Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, Speaker of the House Philip Gunn and U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper. The celebration program is open to the public.
"Mississippi State University is proud to manage and showcase the treasure trove of vital American history contained in the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library. The university and new state-of-the-art addition to Mitchell Memorial Library provide an appropriate and beautiful home to such prestigious and revered collections, including the Frank J. and Virginia Williams Collection of Lincolniana and MSU's Congressional and Political Research Center," said MSU President Mark E. Keenum. "With the help of many visionary and hard-working leaders and scholars, MSU has become one of the nation's foremost repositories for research into the Civil War era, a pivotal period in our nation's history."
MSU is one of six universities housing a presidential library. The Grant Library is managed by the Ulysses S. Grant Association and MSU under the direction of John F. Marszalek, Grant Association managing editor and executive director, and Frances N. Coleman, MSU dean of libraries.
Skip Wyatt of FoilWyatt Architects in Jackson, planned the overall facility expansion, and Washington, D.C.-based HealyKohler Design created the interior museum and gallery spaces. The Grant museum contains artifacts and interactive media that allow visitors to engage with the context of the times and discover intimate details of Grant's personal life and beliefs. Brooklyn-based StudioEIS created four life-size statues to highlight different phases of Grant's life—his time as a cadet at West Point, commanding general of the U.S. Army, the nation's 18th president, and a statesman writing his memoirs in the final days of his life.
The gallery for the Frank J. and Virginia Williams Collection of Lincolniana displays, on a rotating basis, more than 100 of the 17,000 priceless artifacts and 12,000 books included in the Williams Collection, which the former Rhode Island Supreme Court Chief Justice and his wife, Virginia, have amassed over several decades. The gallery exhibit includes commentary from Williams on the relevance and importance of featured items.
The new addition to Mitchell Memorial Library also contains MSU's Congressional and Political Research Center, which houses nine congressional collections, including cornerstone anthologies on MSU alumni and former U.S. congressmen Sen. John C. Stennis and Rep. G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery. Other collections include those of U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, former U.S. Reps. David Bowen and Alan Nunnelee, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy, former Mississippi Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck, State Rep. Steve Holland and State Senator Jack Gordon.
Prior to the Grant Library's grand opening, leading Abraham Lincoln authority Harold Holzer will deliver the inaugural Frank and Virginia Williams Lecture on Abraham Lincoln and Civil War Studies. Holzer's lecture, open to the public, will take place at 10 a.m. in the Old Main Academic Center's Turner Wingo Auditorium. Free parking will be available at the Old Main Parking Garage and behind the Longest Student Health Center.
For more information, see the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library website at www.usgrantlibrary.org, the Frank and Virginia Williams Collection website at library.msstate.edu/williamscollection and the Grand Opening events website at library.msstate.edu/grantopening.
MSU is Mississippi's leading university, available online at www.msstate.edu.