Arts and Culture

From world-class museums to best-selling authors, Starkville is home to a thriving arts and culture scene, attracting tourists from around the world. With the recent addition of the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library and Museum at Mississippi State University, Starkville is seeing a rise in visitors to Mississippi’s college town.

“Even before we had our marvelous facility opened and were in temporary quarters, we had visitors from 48 of the 50 states and nations all around the globe,” said Dr. John Marszalek, executive director of the Ulysses S. Grant Association.

The library, which opened late last year, features memorabilia from throughout Grant’s life, as well as the Frank and Virginia Williams Collection of Lincolniana.

“The Williams Collection museum is equally as prestigious a collection as it focuses on one of the world’s largest formerly privately held collections of Abraham Lincoln materials,” said Stephen Cunetto, associate dean for MSU Libraries. “We took a great deal of time and pride in developing the Grant and the Williams Museum as we wanted these museums to be of the highest quality. Simply put, we wanted these museums to be on par with other museums in our nation’s capital.”

Notable visitors since the opening of the museum include historians Ron White and Charles W. Calhoun, political consultant Karl Rove and Pulitzer Prize winner Ron Chernow, whose biography of Alexander Hamilton inspired the Broadway musical.

“The Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library will offer the opportunity for MSU and, in turn, Starkville to draw thousands of visitors throughout the year to visit this state-of-the-art facility and exhibit,” said Jennifer Prather, director of tourism at the Greater Starkville Development Partnership. “At the partnership, we seek to enhance the experience that these visitors are seeking by further emerging them in our community while they are here through the promotion of the rich culture and art assets that are unique and authentic. Many visitors will travel to Mississippi for the first time to visit the museum, and this gives us the opportunity to better tell the story of Starkville and the great state of Mississippi.”

Mississippi State University is certainly putting Starkville on the map as one of only six universities in the country to host a presidential museum.

“The museum and collection place MSU among an elite group of universities,” said Sarah McCullough, coordinator of Cultural Heritage Projects for MSU Libraries. “The casual tourist, in addition to Civil War scholars and enthusiasts, will be enthralled by the museum and its presence at MSU. They also have the opportunity to visit other museums and sites on campus that are unique to MSU.”

Visitors to the Grant Library and Museum can also see the John Grisham Room and its memorabilia, which was donated by university alum John Grisham; the Charles H. Templeton, Sr. Music Museum, home to four decades worth of sheet music, instruments and recordings; and the Cullis & Gladys Wade Clock Museum, which features more than 400 clocks from as early as the 1700s.

“Between the city and the university,” Prather said, “we are able to offer rich cultural experiences to guests from all over the world, ranging from historical preservation in places like the Grant Museum and the Oktibbeha County Heritage Museum to the celebration of our diverse makeup at the International Fiesta and the Cotton District Arts Festival.”

And finally, the Starkville Community Theatre is another can’t-miss venue, with many activities, productions, parties, and creations. The theater stages four productions during its regular season.