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The Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts is the premier institution of southern American art, recognized as such nationally and internationally. The museum's collection is comprised of architecture (actual rooms from old houses installed in the museum), ceramics, furniture, paintings, paper, silver, and textiles. The museum also conducts field research, publishes books, journals and papers, and offers many educational programs. It also features a research center that contains 20,000 objects made the south.


  • The Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts
  • One of the historical rooms displayed in the museum

Southern art was dismissed through much of the first half of the 20th century. However, thanks to the efforts of Frank Horton and his mother, Theodosia—both of whom were antique dealers and collectors—Southern art did become a respected art form. Their dream of a museum showcasing Southern art came to fruition in 1965, when the museum opened. Frank and Theodosia loaned their collections to the museum and also established an endowment to help fund it. The museum houses several collections of Southern art, including "From Congregation Town to Cradle of Industry: A Century of North Carolina Moravian Landscapes, 1790-1890" which celebrates the art of the Moravian settlers responsible for so much of Old Salem's history.

From Congregation Town to Cradle of Industry, MESDA. Accessed September 30th 2020. https://mesda.org/exhibit_category/salem-landscapes/.

History, MESDA. Accessed September 30th 2020. https://mesda.org/about/history/.