The Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library at the Mississippi State University Libraries accepted a formal donation of materials Thursday [June 13] that scholars say will significantly add to visitors' experiences in visualizing Grant's place in history.
Over 20 years, Jorja Lynn and her late husband Mike E. Lynn III gathered numerous items related to Grant as they renovated Walter Place, a Holly Springs home where Grant, his wife and children lived while the Union Army commander prepared the Vicksburg campaign, which effectively split the Confederacy and gave the U.S. total control of the vital Mississippi River.
The afternoon presentation of the Mike and Jorja Lynn Collection took place at Mitchell Memorial Library, home of the Grant Presidential Library since 2008.
Jorja Lynn told those in attendance that she planned to dismantle the collection following her husband's death in July 2012, but her cousin disagreed. The relative suggested, instead, that she contact retired MSU professor John F. Marszalek, who now serves as executive director of the Ulysses S. Grant Association and the Grant Presidential Library.
Despite her family's traditional support for the University of Mississippi, Lynn said MSU would be the most appropriate place to house the materials. Not only will scholars and visitors have an opportunity to view the donated items, but the collection will be in place for future generations of Lynn's family to see.
"It's an opportunity for my family, my grandson … to come back in 10 years and say, 'Hey, that was my grandfather's.' So I do want to thank Mississippi State," she said.
Marszalek, also an MSU Giles Distinguished Professor Emeritus and nationally recognized Civil War historian and author, said the Lynn Collection significantly enhances the existing Grant Presidential Library.
"This bust, the lithographs, the framed Harper's Weekly pages, and all the other material that Mrs. Lynn has donated allows the average visitor the chance to return to an earlier era," he said. "We are, after all, a teaching institution, and these kinds of remembrances of Ulysses S. Grant teach all of us and all those who visit what life had been like in America more than 100 years ago."
Marszalek joined others at the university in expressing appreciation for Lynn's generosity. He said her gift and others like it make him confident the Grant Presidential Library will continue to be recognized as the world's center for studies about the 18th U.S. president.
"No one can visit (the Grant Presidential Library) without learning important lessons about our American history, so, Jorja, thank you for your willingness to share your husband's treasures," Marszalak said. "You have made an important contribution to the education of our students and to the education of many adults who simply stop in because they heard about us."
MSU President Mark E. Keenum said he and other leaders of the land-grant institution take the responsibility of maintaining the presidential library very seriously, especially its mission to share Grant artifacts and other memorabilia with visitors, scholars and students.
"I know this was a labor of love between Mike and Jorja, and that makes all that much more special for us to receive it, and … we deeply appreciate the trust that you're showing us in our university to maintain this wonderful treasure and share it with the scholars and students for many years to come," Keenum said.
The Grant Presidential Library is located on Mitchell Memorial's first floor. To provide maximum exposure resources of the historical archives, Keenum recently announced plans to add another floor for the extensive--and growing--Grant collection, among other major holdings.
For more information, visit library.msstate.edu/USGrant or call Marszalak at 662-325-4552.
Learn more about MSU at www.msstate.edu.