Most institutions look backward at their 50th anniversary. The temptation of sifting through early records is magnetic—to laud accomplishments and gently snicker at earnest-yet-misguided visions of the future to come. Nostalgia has its uses and place. From the perspective of half a century, many museums contentedly acknowledge and commemorate five decades of their triumphs and milestones.
MESDA is not like many other museums. For its 50th anniversary, MESDA is celebrating by looking forward. Our anniversary events and programs this fall are fundraisers to establish an endowment that ensures MESDA’s Summer Institute meets the highest educational standards in perpetuity. The program, like the museum, is thinking of tomorrow, not yesterday, by training future curators, preservationists, and historians in the practice of material culture study through a unique combination of hands-on object exploration, primary source research, and intensive fieldwork.
The articles of the 2015 MESDA Journal also mark the museum’s 50th anniversary by looking ahead. Capably introduced by Ron Hurst’s excellent assessment of southern furniture studies (aptly subtitled “…and Where We’re Going”), the remainder of this year’s articles present new furniture scholarship by MESDA staff.
Yours Truly is pleased to provide an appraisal of Charleston’s Post-Revolution German School of cabinetmakers that employs hierarchical cluster analysis as a tool to aid in attributing a dozen examples of furniture to the shop of Jacob Sass. Four more articles will be published in the coming months:
Daniel Ackermann explores the furniture of the Burgner family of cabinetmakers working in West North Carolina and East Tennessee.
April Strader-Bullin investigates a Petersburg, Virginia grouping of furniture with Scottish influences.
Robert Leath has partnered with Stephen Jackson, Senior Curator of Furniture and Woodwork, National Museums of Scotland, to bring to life the scintillating adventures of British émigré and Charleston transplant cabinetmaker Robert Deans.
Director of Research June Lucas provides the first in-depth scholarly assessment of Piedmont North Carolina’s Swisegood School since MESDA’s landmark exhibit and catalog over forty years ago.
From East Tennessee to Piedmont North Carolina, Coastal South Carolina to the British Isles, the articles of this year’s MESDA Journal are sure to engage, intrigue, and enlighten.
Happy 50th Anniversary, MESDA!
With best regards,