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The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg and the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA) at Old Salem Museums & Gardens have embarked on a five-year collaboration that will involve extended reciprocal loans. The institutions got a head start on their agreement with the joint exhibition Painters and Paintings in the Early American South, which is currently on view at the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg. Nine major paintings from MESDA’s collection are part of the exhibition while several objects from the Art Museums of Williamsburg’s holdings are already on view at MESDA.

The objects involved in the reciprocal loan agreement include clocks, high chests, paintings, silver coffee pots, and much more. Many of the objects from MESDA’s collection on loan to Colonial Williamsburg will be presented as part of the long-term exhibition A Rich and Varied Culture: The Material World of the Early South, which is expected to go on view at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, one of the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg, in January 2014. The show will present a range of furniture, silver, ceramics, textiles, tools, machines, and architectural elements.

Ronald L. Hurst, Colonial Williamsburg’s vice president for collections, conservation, and museums and the Carlisle H. Humelsine chief curator, said, “This is the age of partnerships. With partnerships everyone wins: the institutions, the public, the scholarly world…so why not do it? Both [the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg and MESDA] have some remarkable objects temporarily off view. Why not show them at a sister institution?”

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In 2009 the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA) at Old Salem, North Carolina, more than doubled its collection of Georgia-made decorative arts. The museum celebrated this achievement with an exhibit entitled “A Land of Liberty and Plenty”: Georgia Decorative Arts 1733–1860.” Important objects from the pioneering Georgia decorative arts collection of Florence and Bill Griffin joined a small nucleus of objects acquired by MESDA’s founder Frank L. Horton over the museum’s first forty years. Several other objects were acquired as part of the museum’s ongoing effort to better represent the decorative arts of its seven constituent states: Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Maryland, Virginia, and the Carolinas. Together these Georgia objects—old friends and new acquisitions—tell the unique antebellum story of a place where the “Old South” of the Atlantic Coast meets the “Deep South” of the Gulf of Mexico.

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