“How They Lived: The Material Culture of Eastern North Carolina, 1780 – 1882” is on display in the Verona Joyner Langford North Carolina Collection, Department of Special Collections, 3rd Floor, J. Y. Joyner Library through April 13, 2015.
“How they Lived…” looks at the material culture of eastern North Carolina – namely the architecture, furniture, silver goods, trade ceramics, and agricultural and gardening material – produced in the region between 1780 and 1882, as well as the 20th century study of this material that has aided in the production of restorations and publications that continue to inform scholarly work as well as the interpretation of this material to the public.
The section on architecture details both vernacular and high style design features of the region, highlighting some specific homes as examples of the period’s frequent use of Georgian and Federal style design elements. This is complimented with a look at the evolution in the study of regional architecture via rare publications spanning the 20th century.
Agriculture and gardening is examined through a collection of 19th century publications representative of those typically owned and used by farmers and planters in the region selected from among the North Carolina Collection’s rare books. A brief look at domestic gardening and the maps of eastern North Carolina towns made by Claude Joseph Sauthier between 1768-1770 focuses on the importance of these maps to 20th century archaeologists and architectural historians, particularly for their representation of domestic garden plans.
A group of silversmiths that worked in the region during this period are featured in the exhibit’s section on silver, which presents profiles on a selection of silversmiths as well as images of their work. Also included in the display is an example of a 19th century silver teaspoon made in the region, as well as a copy of one of the only published studies of silver produced in eastern NC.
Several publications on furniture of the region are displayed – all rather recent due to the relative recent (late 20th century) emergence in scholarly publications on the subject. An early 19th century turned side chair from the Southampton county, VA/Martin County, NC area is displayed along with a period cast iron griddle, and a reproduction 19th century floorcloth.
A reproduction creamware chestnut basket is displayed as an example of the kind of trade ceramics that were popular in eastern North Carolina during this time. Also included is a discussion of the region’s somewhat unique collection of custom ordered, british-made liverpool-type transferware pieces.
The exhibit was curated by Fred Harrison and Emily Powell and is open now in the North Carolina Collection.