MESDA Has Georgia on its Mind With New Acquisitions

Submitted by Jeanne Sturiale (

In the past month MESDA has more than doubled the number of Georgia-made objects in its collection MESDA will debut these new acquisitions in a special exhibition opening October 1, 2009.

“Georgia has always been an important part of the MESDA South,” said Robert Leath, Vice President of Collections and Research and Chief Curator. “With our acquisitions over the past month, MESDA has finally achieved a long-term goal of better representing Georgia’s craftsmen in its collection.”

The earliest known Georgia sampler, a piece of needlework worked by Mary Smallwood (1761–1791) in the late 1700s, is among several new objects that have been added to the MESDA’s collection. Her sampler joins nine other acquisitions, including the Dozier family corner cupboard, made in the 1840s as part of the original furnishings for White Oak Plantation, Oglethorpe County; a watercolor of a painted bunting by early-nineteenth century Georgia naturalist John Abbot (1751–1840); and a one-drawer inlaid table made in the 1830s by farmer-cabinetmaker Thomas J. Maxwell (1804–1869) for his own family in Elbert County. Many of the recent acquisitions are from the pioneering Georgia decorative arts collections of Florence P. and William Griffin, Georgia natives devoted to the arts of their home state.

A piece from MESDA's Georgia collection.

A piece from MESDA's Georgia collection.

These objects join a small but important collection of Georgia objects already at MESDA, including a table made by Salzburger settlers in the 1730s—the earliest known piece of Georgia furniture—and architectural elements from a paneled room erected near Warrenton, Georgia in the late eighteenth century.

On October 1, the public will have a chance to see the collection in an exhibition titled, “Georgia on its Mind: Georgia Decorative Arts in the MESDA Collection.” The works will be on display in the G. Wilson Douglas, Jr. Special Exhibition Gallery at the Frank L. Horton Museum Center at Old Salem.

For more information, call the Visitor Center at Old Salem at 336-721-7350.


The Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA) is the preeminent center for researching, collecting, and exhibiting decorative arts made and used by those living and working in the early South.  MESDA is one of three museums at Old Salem Museums & Gardens.

About Old Salem

Old Salem Museums and Gardens in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, is one of America’s most comprehensive history attractions. Its three museums—the Historic Town of Salem, the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA) and The Toy Museum at Old Salem—engage visitors in an educational and memorable historical experience about those who lived and worked in the early South. The Web site address is