MESDA Summer Institute

Material Culture and Decorative Arts of the Southern Backcountry

June 22 - July 18, 2014

The Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts encourages graduate students, decorative arts professionals, and independent scholars to explore southern history and material culture at the 2014 Summer Institute, “The Backcountry South,1760-1860.”

About the 2014 Summer Institute

The 2014 Institute provides an unparalleled hands-on experience in southern material culture with collection studies and fieldwork in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Kentucky.  Established scholars from the fields of decorative arts, history, and architecture guide students in the multidisciplinary process of using and understanding material culture as historical evidence. The Institute combines a week of collection studies and fieldwork at MESDA and in North Carolina with a week in central Kentucky—visiting both public and private collections. The wide range of objects, places, and stories encountered in the field and classroom shape objected-centered research presentations. Participants not only add to MESDA’s scholarly dialogue, but they also create projects for future conference presentations, journal articles, and theses. 

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

The Visiting Scholar

Carroll Van West, Director of the Center for Historic Preservation at Middle Tennessee State University, has published widely on Tennessee history and material culture, with a special focus on analyzing rural landscapes through the prism of race, class, and gender. His most recent scholarship addresses the historical and cultural significance of rural African-American cemeteries.

Students also collaborate with curators and historians from MESDA and Old Salem Museums & Gardens as well as several guest lecturers, including Dale Couch, Tracey Parks, Estill Curtis Pennington, Warren Hofstra, Jeffrey S. Evans, Craig Thompson Friend, and Kathleen Staples.

Costs and Housing

Tuition for the 2014 Summer Institute is $2,300.00.* Partial tuition fellowships are available. Students are responsible for housing and some meal expenses. Dormitory accommodation is available on the campus of Salem College, near the Institute center at MESDA. Double occupancy rooms are $455.00* for the four weeks (single supplement: $140.00*). The cost for hotel accommodations on the six-day study trip will be approximately $360 (double occupancy).*
*All costs are subject to change.


Graduate students in the fields of American history, material culture, museum studies, historic preservation, and related fields, and professionals in the museum, education, or related fields are encouraged to apply.
Click here to download the application form as a PDF document. Click here to download the application form as a Microsoft Word document.
The deadline for applications is April 18, 2014.

For further information contact Sally Gant, Director of Education & Special Programs (SGant@oldsalem.org or call 336-721-7361).

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 between the three regions of the MESDA South: the Backcountry (2014), the Lowcountry (next in 2015), and the Chesapeake (next in 2016).  

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