June 21, 2009
The public will be offered a rare opportunity Tuesday, June 23, when a special open house at the Mississippi State University Mitchell Memorial Library unveils material related to the military career and presidency of Ulysses S. Grant, a figure historians often consider one of the most complex in America''s history.
The 2-3:30 p.m. event is co-sponsored by the U.S. Grant Association and the library. The extensive collection, which gained a new permanent home in the library in December, includes 10,000 linear feet of photocopied correspondence, photographs, books, memorabilia and other material relating to the military leader who went on to become the 18th president of the United States.
"This will be a rare and wonderful opportunity for the university and the community to come tour the facility," said John F. Marszalek, the association''s executive director and managing editor. "Many of the items are not normally on display for security or preservation reasons, so this is truly a unique opportunity."
The collection came to MSU through the combined efforts of Marszalek, library Dean Frances Coleman, interim presidents Vance Watson and Roy Ruby, and current President Mark Keenum.
After months of negotiations to bring the Grant Collection to its new home in Starkville, the formal paperwork was signed earlier this year. Marszalek, a Giles Distinguished Professor Emeritus, remembers it well.
During the long process, the nationally recognized historian and Civil War scholar had pledged, "if we can pull this off and get this material to Mississippi State, I''ll give the loudest yell that''s ever been heard in Oktibbeha."
However, when the moment arrived for the actual signing ceremony in the Grisham Room of Mitchell Memorial Library, "I decided there was a better way of expressing my exhilaration -- I pulled out a cowbell!" he laughed.
History on view
In addition to two display cases, visitors at the open house will see a shawl belonging to the president''s wife, the diary and pieces of the dress uniform of Grant''s military aide, and filing cabinets full of copies of handwritten documents, all normally kept under lock and key.
Extensive work has been done to organize the historic collection for access by outside scholars and students, said Marzalek. By visiting www.msu.edu and navigating through links for Libraries, Grant Collection and Finding Aids, those interested in research can access an audio and visual tutorial on how to use the collection.
"We''ve worked hard on this, and we''ve gotten great compliments on it," Marzalek said.
With support from Southern Illinois University, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, the Grant Association has published 30 volumes of The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant that cover Grant''s career through 1884. Volume 31, to be published in 2009, carries Grant''s life to the completion of his memoirs and his tragic death from cancer in 1885.
Organized in 1962 during the Civil War Centennial, the Grant Association collection earlier was housed at Ohio State and Southern Illinois universities.
For more information on the open house or the Grant Collection, visit www.msu.edu, or contact Marszalek at 662-325-4552, or [email protected]