Anyone who has visited the Drayton Hall plantation might be surprised to learn that it has an impressive collection of furniture and other material objects.
These are not displayed inside the 18th-century house museum, but they soon may be viewed about 450 miles away.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation, which runs Drayton Hall, has loaned 26 objects to the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation for its new exhibit, “A Rich and Varied Culture: The Material World of the Early South.”
The exhibit will open Feb. 15 and will focus on objects created in or imported into the Chesapeake, the Carolina Lowcountry, and the Backcountry, including furniture, ceramics, metals, archaeological artifacts and art.
Carter Hudgins, Drayton Hall’s director of preservation and education, said the objects on loan underscore Drayton Hall’s prominent position in colonial and contemporary South Carolina. They not only show the Draytons’ close connections to fashionable English society, but also illustrate the importance behind recent efforts to preserve South Carolina’s tangible history, he said.
The pieces include archaeological finds, architectural bits and all date from the era when John Drayton (1715-1779) and his son Charles (1743-1820) lived in the house.
The star of the show is a rare, British-made bureau-bookcase built around the same time of the Georgian-Palladian house. Ronald L. Hurst, Colonial Williamsburg’s vice president of collections, has called that piece “the finest example of furniture to survive from Colonial America.”
In exchange for the loan, Colonial Williamsburg has gone to the expense of conserving many of the items, including two to three years worth of investigation, stabilization and conservation work on the bureau bookcase.
Hudgins said the pieces did not come with the property when the trust acquired it in the 1970s, but were later donated or procured at auctions. The items have rarely been displayed at Drayton Hall, because the house has no heating, air conditioning or humidity control.
Hudgins said the loan to Colonial Williamsburg will last five years, after which time he hopes Drayton Hall will have a suitable new gallery space to keep the objects on permanent display.
“John Drayton, beginning in 1738, began construction of what is now a colonial masterpiece. That is represented by what is now in the house,” Hudgins said. “But the collection that survives really helps us understand the overall composition of this masterpiece.”
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.
This sidechair is another piece of furniture that Drayton Hall has owned but seldom displayed. It also will be part of Colonial Williamsburg's "A Rich and Varied Culture" exhibit set to open Feb. 15. Provided×
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