MESDA365 is a one-stop space for you to find the best of MESDA, digitally.
Check back often as featured articles from the MESDA Journal, staff recommendations,
and online exhibitions are updated regularly.

Articles From the Archive

MESDA Recommends

Online Exhibitions


Enjoy articles from the MESDA Journal archives, selected for you by MESDA staff.
A new article will be posted weekly.  You can also see every issue of The Luminary, MESDA’s former newsletter, by clicking here!

“America’s Earliest Woman Miniaturist”
by Frank L. Horton
1979, Vol. V No. 2
For further context and information:
MESDA Collection
Mary Robert’s portrait of Mary Keating Broughton
Online ScholarshipAmerican Portraiture of the Eighteenth Century by the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Virtual Tourism – visit Mary Roberts at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Gibbes Museum of Art, and her husband at Colonial Williamsburg
Retail Therapy – Painters and Paintings of the Early American South by Carolyn Weekley

“John Shearer, Joiner of Martinsburg”
by John Snyder
1979, Vol. V No. 1

For further context and information:
MESDA CollectionDesk & Bookcase and Chest of Drawers
MESDA Object Database38 records for furniture attributed to Shearer
Virtual TourismDesk and Sideboard at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley; “A Craftman’s Biography, Carved Into His Furniture” in the New York Times
Current Research“Have you seen these?” by independent scholar Elizabeth Davison
Online RetailThe Furniture of John Shearer by Elizabeth A. Davison
“Silver and Gold: A Pair of Officer’s Swords Marked by Thomas and Andrew Ellicott Warner of Baltimore”
by Gary Albert
2006, Vol. XXXI No. 2
For further context and information:
MESDA CollectionSword and Scabbard
Online Scholarship – Read about the MFA Boston’s officer’s sword made by Thomas and A.E. Warner for the Van Deventer family of New Jersey
Virtual Tourism – Travel to London and watch a short and engaging 1965 video of a master craftsman at the Wilkinson Sword Factory make a sword from raw materials to finished weapon
Virtual Tourism – Travel to Mount Vernon and explore the amazing assemblage of swords one and used by General George Washington
“Ned Hipp, Renegade Restorer”
from The Luminary
Spring, 1995
“Rugs – The Colonial Chesapeake Consumer’s Bed Covering of Choice”
by Gloria Seaman Allen
2004, Volume XXX, No. 1
For further context and information:
MESDA CollectionElizabeth Gibboney’s bed rug
Online Scholarship – Read Amelia Peck’s chapter on bed rugs in her 1990 book about bed coverings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Online Scholarship – Read a deep dive into Historic Deerfield’s 1801 Esther Packard bed rug
Virtual TourismVisit with curator Michael Gillman to learn about the decorative arts in Wytheville, Virginia, where Elizabeth Gibboney made MESDA’s bed rug.
“A New and Correct Map of the Province of North Carolina: The Discovery of a 1737 North Carolina Manuscript Map”
by Mike McNamara
2012, Volume XXXIII
For further context and information:
MESDA CollectionCopperplate print of North Carolina Governor Arthur Dobbs
MESDA Object Database – A silver chalice and paten gifted by Edward Mosely in 1725 to Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church in Edenton, North Carolina
“Daniel Cannon: A Revolutionary War ‘Mechanick’ in Charleston”
by Rosemary Estes
1983, Volume IX, No. 1
For further context and information:
MESDA CollectionChest of Drawers, Candle Stand, Silver Sauceboats, Silver Covered Bowl
MESDA Object DatabasePortrait of Mary Trusler Cannon, the Daniel Cannon House, and a plat of Orange Garden (land developed by Daniel Cannon and silversmith Alexander Petrie).
Recent Research – Catalogue updates by Robert Leath to this chest of drawers and easy chair
Online Scholarship – Related article by Gary Albert in the 2012 MESDA Journal: “Scratching the Surface: Thomas You, Charleston Silversmith, Engraver, and Patriot”
Virtual Tourism – Become a guest at the Daniel Cannon House through this photographic tour and history produced by the South Carolina Picture Project or explore historic photographs of the exterior and interior through the archives of The Charleston Museum.
Retail Therapy– Read about one of Charleston’s greatest homes, Roper House, in Frank L. Horton Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Richard Jenrette’s Adventures with Old Houses.
“The West Indian Islands – How Close Were They?”
by Gwynne Stephens Taylor
1976, Volume II, No. 2
For further context and information:
MESDA CollectionPap boat, Tablespoon, Portrait of Robert Rankin, Portrait of Joseph Lewis
MESDA Craftsman DatabaseLouis Boudo, Heloise Boudo
Online ScholarshipA discussion of the Louis Boudo pap boat with 2018 MESDA Summer Institute scholar Chris Grant
Virtual TourismNew Street Tavern in Port Royal, Jamaica from the Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery
Retail Therapy – Architecture and Empire in Jamaica by Louis P. Nelson, MESDA Summer Institute faculty and professor of Architectural History at the University of Virginia

In an effort to reach the broadest audience possible, the MESDA Journal is provided without subscription or fees for accessing its articles. Production costs and honoraria are provided by the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts at Old Salem with the invaluable support of donations from readers like you.  If you would like to make a fully tax-deductible donation or have a question about supporting the journal, please contact Catherine Carlisle, MESDA’s Director of Engagement, at [email protected]. 
Or you can send a check made out to “MESDA” with “MESDA Journal” in the description line to:
Attn: MESDA Journal
924 S. Main Street
Winston-Salem, NC  27101

We thank you for your appreciation and support of the MESDA Journal.

MESDA staff and friends recommend their favorite ways to enjoy the decorative arts through books, movies, TV shows, and other media.

A Biography of a Map In Motion
by Christian J. Koot
Christian J. Koot reveals the fascinating story of Bohemian merchant Augustine Herrman and how be came to create one of America’s most important historical maps.  Koot follows Herrman through his process to create the remarkably accurate map from the Upper Chesapeake in 1671, to print shops in London, to its role in the vision of an empire.
“A History of the World in 100 Objects”
Partnership between The BBC and the British Museum
Join British Museum Director Neil MacGregor as he takes listeners on a tour of human civilization through the examination of 100 objects in this free podcast.
Duveen Brothers and the Market for Decorative Arts, 1800-1940
by Charlotte Vignon
Active in London, Paris, and New York, Duveen Brothers was the most prominent art and antique dealer from the late nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. Charlotte Vignon (Curator of Decorative Arts, Frick Collection) retells the story of the Duveens success and the often devious lengths they went to ensure it. From outrageous markups, to cozying up to robber barons, to manipulating auctions to justify private sales, Vignon’s book is not only a juicy dive into an extraordinary period of American collecting, but also serves as something of a cautionary tale for collectors today.
“Craft in America” Film Series
from PBS
Craft in America explores the vitality, history and significance of the craft movement in the United States and its impact on our nation’s rich cultural heritage. Capturing the beauty, creativity and originality of craftsmanship, the film highlights artists and explores the inter-relationship of what they do, how they do it and why they have chosen a life of creating art.
Southern Oral History Program
from The Center for the Study of the American South at UNC-Chapel Hill
Since 1973, the Southern Oral History programs worked to preserve the voices of the southern past.  Made available through the University of North Carolina’s renowned Southern Historical Collection online, these interviews capture the vivid personalities, poignant personal stories, and behind-the-scenes decision making that bring history to life.
from the Metropolitan Museum of Art
From its founding in 1870, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has published exhibition catalogues, collection catalogues, and guides to the collection.  MetPublications is a portal to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s comprehensive publishing program with over 1,500 titles, including books, online publications, and Bulletins and Journals from the last five decades.

Explore the MESDA collection from afar.
Take a tour of an online exhibition to see objects from a new perspective.

“Black and White all Mix’d Together”: The Hidden Legacy of Enslaved Craftsmen

Enslaved black and free white craftsmen worked side by side across the southern landscape.  Over the past thirty years researchers at MESDA have identified nearly 6500 slave-owning craftsmen. Often anonymous, slaves owned by craftsmen were at work on building sites, at the potters’ wheels, in cabinet shops, at iron foundries, behind the counters of silversmiths’ shops, and at dozens of other trades.  Their skills are revealed in the objects that they helped to fashion.  Their identities are often lost to history.

This exhibition looks at icons of southern decorative arts through the lens of research conducted by MESDA over more than thirty years.  It recovers the stories of the many named and nameless individuals whose hidden hands shaped the southern landscape.

McNamara Southern Masterworks Gallery

The Carolyn and Mike McNamara Southern Masterworks Gallery showcases MESDA’s finest and most important examples of furniture, paintings, silver, long rifles, and needlework made and used in the early American South.