MESDA: Winston-Salem's Hidden Treasure

MESDA: Winston-Salem's Hidden Treasure

5:05pm May 28, 2013

Winston-Salem is home to a treasure that's perhaps more well-known to some constituencies outside the area than it is to those who live in the Triad.

It's been here since 1965, but earlier this month, the ribbon cutting ceremony was held for the new Anne P. and Thomas A. Gray Library and MESDA, the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts... and the facility moved into its new home in the Frank L. Horton Museum Center at 924 South Main Street. 

Robert Leath is the Chief Curator and Vice-President.  “We have a mission, all the way back to 1965, of interpreting the cultural legacy of the early south, as it stretches from Maryland, through Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia, out into Kentucky and Tennessee, from the earliest founding at Jamestown, right up through the Civil War,”  Leath says.

The museum has some remarkable and rare pieces.  “We actually have in the collection the earliest known piece of southern furniture,” he says with pride, “A court cupboard that was made right in the Jamestown area in the 17th century that descended within a particular Virginia family until it came off the back porch of a farm house in Mecklenburg County, Virginia, where it had devolved into being used for storing tools and salted hams. That was purchased by Frank Horton for the MESDA collection early in his collecting career." 

Leath says, "Frank Horton, MESDA's founder -- he was really a pioneer in researching early American culture.  And he created the library and he created the research center, but they were in relatively small spaces hidden away in the basement of the museum building. What Tom and Anne Gray's gift has allowed us to do is to quite literally bring those facilities into the light."

The library and MESDA are of great interest to scholars, but Leath says everyone is invited to visit and discover the culture and heritage of the south, right from the beginning.

For more information on the new Anne P. and Thomas A. Gray Library and  the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts, visit their website:

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