History of Decorative Arts
George Mason University in Partnership with Smithsonian Associates

MA in History of Decorative Arts

Ashley Callahan, 1998

Ashley Callahan

I was Curator of Decorative Arts at the Georgia Museum of Art for 8 years. Since I was the first person to hold the position, it was exciting to develop that program—establishing the biennial decorative arts symposium series, curating lots of exhibitions, building a collection with a focus on Georgia decorative arts, and building the decorative arts library. I still turn to my teachers in the Masters Program for research advice and when I was at the Georgia Museum of Art, several of them came to Georgia to speak!

Recent Exhibitions:

Guest curator: Georgia Bellflowers: The Furniture of Henry Eugene Thomas exhibition for the Georgia Museum of Art, January-April 2012

The Ring Shows: Then and Now & Putting the Band Back Together, Fall 2008, co-curated with Rob Jackson and Mary Pearse, Jewelry/Metals, UGA

New Discoveries in Georgia Painted Furniture, Winter 2007-2008, co-curated with Dale Couch, senior archivist, Georgia Archives

Modern Threads: Fashion and Art by Mariska Karasz, Winter 2007, supported in part by a grant from Friends of Fiber Art International

From Sideboard to Pulpit: Silver in Georgia, Winter 2005-2006, co-curated with Dale Couch, senior archivist, Georgia Archives

Recent Publications:

Georgia Bellflowers: The Furniture of Henry Eugene Thomas (Athens, GA: Georgia Museum of Art, 2011) http://www.facebook.com/georgiabellflowers

“Jim Cotter: The Unexpected and Commonplace” Ornament Magazine (Volume 35, Number 3, 2012), 30-35.

 “Joanna Gollberg: An Unsentimental View of Jewelry” Ornament Magazine (Volume 35, Number 2, 2012), 28-33.

Forthcoming Publications:

“Debra Lynn Gold: Playful Constructions” Ornament Magazine (Volume 35, Number 4, 2012).

“Modern Antiques by Henry Eugene Thomas: Images of and Comments on the Georgia Bellflowers Exhibition,” Homecoming: Proceedings from the Sixth Henry D. Green Symposium of the Decorative Arts (Athens, Georgia: Georgia Museum of Art, 2014).

Southern Tufts: The Regional Origins and National Craze for Chenille Fashion (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press).

Recent Presentations (2012):

Costume Society of America, 38th Annual National Meeting & Symposium, Atlanta, Georgia

            “Peacock Kimonos, Shrimp Capes and Roy Rogers Robes: The Southern Origins and National Craze for Chenille” (I delivered the talk while wearing a vintage chenille dress).

Laurel Heritage Garden Club, Marietta, Georgia

            “Chenille Fashion”

Sixth Henry D. Green Symposium of the Decorative Arts, Georgia Museum of Art, Athens, Georgia

            “Modern Antiques by Henry Eugene Thomas”

Georgia Museum of Art and the Athens Historical Society, Lecture and Gallery Talk, Athens, Georgia

            “Georgia Bellflowers: The Furniture of Henry Eugene Thomas”


One devoted to chenille fashion: http://chenillefashion.tumblr.com/

One for postcards that have rooms circled, places marked, etc. by the senders: http://ourroompostcard.tumblr.com/

I have a delicious page as well, mostly dec arts and jewelry: http://www.delicious.com/decartsbanana

Advice for aspiring decorative arts historians:

It was helpful for me to get involved with the Textile Society of America, so I recommend finding a professional organization that is a good fit. I presented at several symposia and served on the TSA board for a while. It was great experience to be involved in that way, to see how the organization works and to get to know other board members. I also did a lot of internships, and that is a great way to figure out what you want to do. You pretty quickly learn if you want to work in a museum, and if so, what size museum, and in what role, etc. I also believe that it is worth considering focusing on some local research topics, especially if you are from an area that has not already been the subject of extensive decorative arts research. I love doing Georgia topics; there are great resources here ranging from formal archives to storage closets in small regional history centers and the field is so wide open. It's rewarding to bring scholarly attention to craftsmen like Gene Thomas. His work helps to illustrate the national fashion for the Colonial Revival, but it also is a local story that people in this region (including many of his family members) can take pride in. 


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