One of the most interesting museums in the state, MESDA was conceived as a showcase of furniture design and decorative arts in the American Southeast during the 18th and early 19th centuries. It originated as the result of the outrage generated at a lecture by the then-president of the Winterthur Museum (Delaware) in 1949, when he implied that nothing of artistic importance was produced south of Baltimore during America's colonial era. MESDA's collection of southeastern American art and antiques grew up in reaction to his words, and today the organization functions as a research and documentation center, producing large, four-color volumes on esoteric subjects associated with the decorative arts in the American South.
The best way to enter this museum is by navigating your way through the visitor center for Old Salem, passing over a replica of a mortise-and-tenon-covered bridge leading toward Old Salem, and entering the neo-Palladian entryway (inspired by Thomas Jefferson's Monticello) of MESDA. Its collections are set inside replicas of 32 historically important period rooms, many dismantled from places throughout the South, then reassembled, side by side, in a warehouselike structure originally conceived as a Kroger grocery store in the 1950s. Each of the rooms represents a different region of the South and is appointed with furniture from its era. Hours are the same as those for the Old Salem visitor center, and a ticket to Old Salem includes access to this museum.
MESDA allows you to tour period rooms and galleries, showcasing the furniture, paintings, textiles, ceramics, silver, and other metalwares made and used in the South through 1820. The museum stands at the southern edge of Old Salem.
- © Frommer's 2013
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