Summer Institute

2019 MESDA Summer Institute
The Backcountry: The Cotton South and the Lower Southern Piedmont
June 16–July 12, 2019

The 2019 MESDA Summer Institute emphasizes the Cotton South including the Georgia Piedmont and Upcountry South Carolina.  This course will closely look at the material culture of the planter class in the region, as well as that of the Native American peoples whose forced removal made cotton cultivation possible.  The material culture of the enslaved African American workforce whose labor made cotton cultivation possible will also be a major focus.   The course will examine the material culture and landscapes of the region through a multidisciplinary approach that includes current methods of research, interpretation, preservation, and analysis of material culture. The program’s month-long curriculum includes lectures, discussions, hands-on workshops, artifact studies, research projects, and an intensive study trip through western North Carolina, east Tennessee, the Georgia Piedmont, and Upcountry South Carolina.

Three hours of graduate credit are awarded through the University of Virginia’s Graduate Program in the History of Art and Architecture.

More information about the 2019 MESDA Summer Institute will be posted soon.  For questions please contact MESDA Curator Daniel Ackermann.


The MESDA Summer Institute is led by visiting scholar Dr. Carroll Van West and MESDA Curator Daniel Ackermann.  Dr. West is Professor of History and Director of the Center for Historic Preservation at Middle Tennessee State University and is Tennessee’s State Historian.  During the Institute students will also work with distinguished scholars including: Dr. Jennifer Van Horn, Assistant Professor of Art History and History at the University of Delaware; Dale Couch, Curator of Decorative Arts and Director of the Henry D. Green Center for the Study of the Decorative Arts at the Georgia Museum of Art; and Frank Vagnone, President and CEO of Old Salem Museums & Gardens and author of The Anarchist Guide to Historic House Museums.

About the MESDA Summer Institute

Since the 1970s, the MESDA Summer Institute has provided graduate students, museum professionals, and independent scholars with an in-depth, practice-based education in the decorative arts and material culture of the early American South. The focus of the MESDA Summer Institute rotates among the three regions of MESDA’s South: the Backcountry (next in 2019), the Lowcountry (next in 2022), and the Chesapeake (next in 2020).

Support the MESDA Summer Institute

The Frank L. Horton Fellowship Fund provides critical support to MESDA’s Summer Institute for Early Southern Decorative Arts and Material Culture. Please click here to contribute to the Frank L. Horton Fellowship Fund.