The two leading decorative arts institutions in the South are embarking on a new level of collaboration between their organizations. The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg (the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum and the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum) and the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA) at Old Salem Museums & Gardens have entered a five-year agreement for reciprocal extended loans. The museums have already collaborated on the recently opened exhibition, Painters and Paintings in the Early American South (on view through September 7, 2014) at the Arts Museums of Colonial Williamsburg. With nine major paintings MESDA is the largest single lender to the exhibition, while select objects from the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg are already on display at MESDA.
Many of MESDA’s forty objects on loan to Colonial Williamsburg will be featured in a new, long-term exhibition opening at Colonial Williamsburg’s DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum in January 2014. A Rich and Varied Culture: The Material World of the Early South will feature materials made in or imported to the South before 1840. The two museums have already begun discussions on several ways in which they can broaden the collaboration. Ideas include research exchanges, conservation, joint exhibitions and, potentially, joint publications. Further evidence of the collaboration will be seen in Colonial Williamsburg’s 66th annual Antiques Forum, February 14–18, 2014. Tentatively titled “New Findings in the Arts of the Coastal South,” the program will feature multiple speakers from both institutions as well as a number of experts from museums and universities across the nation.
This May MESDA honored Richard Hampton Jenrette with the first ever Frank L. Horton Lifetime Achievement Award for Southern Decorative Arts. A native of Raleigh, North Carolina, during the past forty years Jenrette has owned and restored a dozen historic properties. He has retained six of them and furnished each with period antiques, many original to the houses. Threads of Feeling, on view at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, Colonial Williamsburg, through May 2014, displays the Foundling Hospital of London’s eighteenth century record books that retain textile tokens used to identify babies left in its care. The exhibit and catalogue provide insight into social and textile history and is the only American venue. October 20–22, 2013, Williamsburg will host a symposium to explore the objects in context. For information on the institutions, exhibitions, and symposium, visit colonialwilliamsburg.com and mesda.org.