UM Museum’s holiday keepsake honors university’s 175th anniversary

Published 9:35 pm Monday, December 11, 2023

Annual memento features university’s beloved champion tree

By Clara Turnage

The University of Mississippi Museum has unveiled its annual holiday keepsake, a commemorative edition to honor the university’s 175th anniversary.

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The memento features the university’s beloved state state champion northern catalpa tree, which is said to be as old as the university itself, said Melanie Antonelli, the museum’s curator and collections manager. Antonelli, who has designed the annual keepsake since 2013, said she chose the champion tree because it is an iconic piece of the campus

“A lot of people have these memories of the champion tree,” Antonelli said. “Everybody has walked by it or sat under it at some point while they were at Ole Miss. This is supposed to appeal to people who have those memories.”

The northern catalpa shades an area between the Student Union and Bryant Hall near the Grove and has been a fixture of the campus for decades, Antonelli said. It is one of two champion trees on campus, the second of which – an Osage orange tree – grows just outside the University Museum.

Champion trees are the largest – though not specifically oldest – tree in each state. The northern catalpa tree stands approximately 76-feet tall with a trunk circumference of 22 feet, 7 inches, she said.

“This is a symbol of the university,” Antonelli said. “I think it’s elegant, and it represents strength. It’s nice to celebrate the natural beauty of the university as well.”

Each commemorative ornament is $25 in the museum store. Keepsakes can be purchased in person or by phone at 662-915-7073. Shipping within the continental U.S. is $10. To ensure a shipped keepsake arrives by the holiday, place your order by Dec. 14.

The northern catalpa is the 22nd keepsake since the museum began offering them in 2001. Some previous versions of the annual tokens remain available for purchase.

Museum members and Friends of the Museum get a 10 percent discount on all merchandise. To become a member, visit or stop by the museum.

The UM Museum is at the corner of University Avenue and Fifth Street and is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays.

Contact: Jacob Batte,
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The University of Mississippi, affectionately known as Ole Miss, is Mississippi’s flagship university. A member of the elite group of R1: Doctoral Universities – Highest Research Activity by the Carnegie Classification, Ole Miss has a long history of producing leaders in public service, business, academics and the professions. Its 16 academic divisions include a major medical school; nationally recognized schools of accountancy, law and pharmacy; and an Honors College acclaimed for a blend of academic rigor, experiential learning and opportunities for community action. Acclaimed as one of the nation’s most beautiful, Ole Miss’s main campus is in Oxford, which is routinely recognized as one of the nation’s best college towns.