Drayton Hall Logo

Distinguished Speakers Series

About the Series

The Friends of Drayton Hall are pleased to present the third season of the Drayton Hall Distinguished Speakers Series. Beginning with the opening event of the 2016 season, you’ll experience a range of thought-provoking presentations related to American history and culture by some of today’s most respected historians, archaeologists, and curators. Speakers will also highlight the connections of Charleston and Drayton Hall to their research interests and answer questions from the audience. All programs will be held at South Carolina Society Hall.

Spring Series

February through
April at 6:30pm.

Fall Series

September through
November at 6:30pm.

Doors open at 5:30pm with a Wine and Cheese Reception.
Presentations start promptly at 6:30pm.
No advance reservations; please arrive early as seating is limited.
The 2016 Drayton Hall Distinguished Speakers Series
is sponsored by The Francis Marion Hotel, Charleston, SC.
Francis Marion Hotel National Trust for Historic Preservation


For more information about Drayton Hall’s Distinguished Speakers Series, including
sponsorship opportunities, please contact Tara Odom, development events coordinator,
at 843-769-2627 or todom@draytonhall.org


Join us! Become a member
of Drayton Hall now.

Spring 2016 Speakers

Calendar icon

February 18, 2016

Patricia Lowe Smith

Patricia Lowe Smith,
Curator of Historic Architectural Resources, Drayton Hall Preservation Trust

The Best Portico: Rehabilitating
an Architectural Icon

Five years ago, Drayton Hall launched the portico rehabilitation project: an effort to remedy serious threats to the portico’s preservation and to visitor safety. After years of careful study and planning, the final construction phase is drawing to a close. Join Drayton Hall’s Curator of Historic Architectural Resources, Trish Smith, as we take a look back at what makes Drayton Hall’s portico so special and how an international team of professionals came together to bring this momentous project to completion.

Trish Smith is the Curator of Historic Architectural Resources at Drayton Hall. After graduating with a B.A. in Art History from the University of South Carolina Honors College, Smith received her M.S. from the Clemson University and College of Charleston joint graduate program in Historic Preservation. Smith came to Drayton Hall in 2010 as a Wood Family Fellow and joined the staff permanently upon completion of her fellowship. In 2013, Smith was awarded a residential fellowship at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s Digital History Center to study the application of 3D visualization technology for the documentation and interpretation of cultural heritage sites. During her tenure at Drayton Hall she has assembled the site’s first preservation archive, carried out several architectural conservation projects, launched a digital restoration of Drayton Hall, and is currently managing the rehabilitation of Drayton Hall’s iconic portico.

Calendar icon

March 24, 2016

Jonathan Holloway

Dean Jonathan Holloway,
Dean of Yale College and Edmund S. Morgan Professor of African American Studies, History, and American Studies

Curating the Black Atlantic:
Race, Memory, and Museum Making

Beginning in the 1970s, museum curators began to search for materials and artifacts they could use to interpret the black experience in the Americas. Their efforts flew in the face of previous scholarship that declared that there were almost no artifacts available to understand the black past. Using new technologies, the new generation of curators argued that their predecessors were wrong. Whereas earlier scholars only saw “absence,” the post-civil rights curators concluded that they were surrounded by evidence of a black past. The absence, it turns out, was the evidence.

How can we make sense of this conclusion? What can we learn by studying the history of absence? What does the black past tell us about how the Atlantic world was made and about the role of museums in making that world?

Jonathan Holloway (GRD, 1995) is Dean of Yale College and Edmund S. Morgan Professor of African American Studies, History, and American Studies. He specializes in post-emancipation United States history with a focus on social and intellectual history. He is the author of Confronting the Veil: Abram Harris Jr., E. Franklin Frazier, and Ralph Bunche, 1919–1941 (2002) and Jim Crow Wisdom: Memory and Identity in Black America Since 1940 (2013), both with the University of North Carolina Press. He edited Ralph Bunche’s A Brief and Tentative Analysis of Negro Leadership (NYU Press, 2005) and co-edited Black Scholars on the Line: Race, Social Science, and American Thought in the 20th Century (Notre Dame University Press, 2007). He has written an introduction for a new edition of W.E.B. Du Bois’s Souls of Black Folk, published by Yale University Press in 2015. He has held fellowships from the W.E.B. Du Bois Research Institute at Harvard University, the Stanford Humanities Center, and the Ford Foundation. He was an Alphonse Fletcher Sr. Fellow in 2011–2012. Currently, he is a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians.

Calendar icon

April 21, 2016

S. Max Edelson

Henry Noltie, Ph.D.,
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

John Hope: Botanist
of the Scottish Enlightenment

Today we tend to imagine that inter-continental travel is a recent phenomenon—in fact it has always taken place, it merely took slightly longer. For example, such was the renown of the Edinburgh Medical School in the 18th century that it drew students from as far afield as Russia and India in the east, and from the American colonies (including the Caribbean) in the west. One such student was Charles Drayton, who made the transatlantic trip to study botany and materia medica in 1767 under the famed Professor John Hope. In keeping with this theme, Dr. Noltie will journey from Scotland to Charleston in 2016 to speak about the botanical information Charles Drayton brought back with him from Scotland as he made the same trip just about 250 years prior. Dr. Noltie will additionally focus on John Hope and some of his other American pupils, including Benjamin Rush, who was in the same year as Drayton, and an exciting new project that has seen the rebuilding of the house that Hope built (to designs by John Adam) to house his head gardener, as well as a lecture room that Drayton would have sat in had he arrived in Edinburgh ten years later.

Since 1986, after studying botany at Oxford and Museum Studies at Leicester, Henry Noltie has worked at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) as a curator and taxonomist. For 14 years, he worked on the Flora of Bhutan project, writing the first account of the plants of that remote Himalayan Kingdom and leading the team for its concluding years. He wrote two of the volumes of the Flora, relating to the monocots, for which he received a Ph.D. from the University of Edinburgh. Since 2000, his work has been on historical aspects of the rich herbarium and illustrations collections of the RBGE, especially relating to India, which has combined nomenclatural research with historical and art-history studies, plus the mounting of exhibitions at the RBGE gallery, Inverleith House. A series of publications on Scottish East India Company surgeons—and the botanical drawings they commissioned from Indian artists in the late 18th and early 19th century—has resulted. This work was extended into S.E. Asia in a collaboration with the British Library on the collections of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles. His work on the Scottish Enlightenment botanist John Hope also took visual materials for its starting point—the unique collection of Hope’s teaching drawings preserved at the RBGE, led to the writing of a short biography in 2011. His most recent work is a two-volume work on Hugh Cleghorn (1820–1895), a pioneering Forest Conservator, but also the source of one of the largest collections of botanical drawings and books in the RBGE collection.

Fall 2016 Speakers

Calendar icon

September 15, 2016

Sarah Stroud Clarke

Sarah Stroud Clarke,
Archaeologist & Curator of Collections, Drayton Hall Preservation Trust

What Lies Beneath:
The Archaeology of the pre-Drayton Era

Archaeological excavations play a crucial role in understanding Drayton Hall’s history through the recovery of artifacts used by the past inhabitants of the property. Recent excavations are illuminating an even earlier time period pre-dating the purchase of the property by John Drayton in 1738. This presentation will highlight the earlier owners of the property and discuss how the material culture of this time period is informing what we know about those people, their trades and their lifestyles. This research is aided by the ongoing partnership that the Drayton Hall Preservation Trust maintains with the Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery (DAACS) at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.

Sarah Stroud Clarke is the archaeologist and curator of collections for the Drayton Hall Preservation Trust, where she executes all archaeological excavations, cataloging and research, as well as curates the decorative art and museum collections belonging to both the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Drayton Hall Preservation Trust. Ms. Stroud Clarke holds a B.A. in history from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College and an M.A. in anthropology from San Diego State University. The information in this presentation stems from the research she is conducting in relation to her pursuit of a Ph.D. in anthropology at Syracuse University. A native of Virginia, she has worked on archaeological excavations of the original 1607 James Fort at Jamestown, Virginia; the slave quarters and formal gardens at Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest in Bedford, Virginia; and the homestead of Nate Harrison, an African American pioneer in San Diego, California.

Calendar icon

October 20, 2016

Dr. William M. Kelso

William M. Kelso, Ph.D.,
Director of Research & Interpretation, Historic Jamestowne

Jamestowne, The Buried Truth

Lured by the promise of a better life, in 1607 a band of adventurers established the first enduring English settlement in the New World: Jamestowne. The colony’s early history was a troubled one, beginning with an alleged mutiny during the crossing from England and continuing through many struggles for power, incidents of civil unrest, Indian wars, drought, starvation, even survival cannibalism. The actual site of the first settlement, James Fort was long thought to have been lost to river erosion. Over twenty years of archaeological discoveries, re-examination of historical documents and forensic research proved that the lost Fort survived on dry land. This multi-media presentation will unveil a re-written Jamestowne story including recovery of the original townscape and mysteries from the grave.

Dr. William M. Kelso is the Director of Research and Interpretation at Historic Jamestowne. He holds a Master’s Degree in Early American History from the College of William and Mary, a Ph.D. from Emory University, honorary doctorates in Philosophy, Archaeology and Science, and is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London. In 2012, Queen Elizabeth II named him “Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire” (CBE), one of the highest orders of chivalry.

For more than fifty years, Dr. Kelso has pursued Early American historical archaeology serving as director of archaeology at Carter's Grove, Kingsmill, and for fourteen years at Thomas Jefferson's homes, Monticello, and Poplar Forest. In 1994, Dr. Kelso began archaeological excavations at Jamestowne for Preservation Virginia in search of the remains of the 1607 James Fort, thought lost to James River erosion. Kelso and his remarkably talented team of archaeologists, curators, and conservators soon discovered the lost Fort and continue to explore its mysteries. He is the author of numerous books on archaeology, including the award-winning Jamestowne, The Buried Truth.

Calendar icon

November 17, 2016

David S. Shields

David S. Shields, Ph.D.,
Carolina Distinguished Professor and the McClintock Professor of Southern Letters, University of South Carolina

Creating the World Orchard

From 1760 to 1840, planters, horticulturists, and pomologists in the SC Lowcountry collected the most exotic fruits and nuts of the world believing that the soil and climate would nourish things. While the experiment gave rise to expensive and ludicrous failures, it did succeed in “cosmopolitanizing” the yards and groves of Carolina, introducing the loquat, grapefruit, pears, and plums. Dr. Shields’s presentation will highlight the moment when the SC Lowcountry believed in the fantasy that it could reproduce all the great fruits and nuts grown throughout the world.

David S. Shields is the Carolina Distinguished Professor and the McClintock Professor of Southern Letters in the College of Arts and Science, University of South Carolina. His scholarship explores three fields: early American literary culture, American performing arts photography, and food studies. He edited the journal Early American Literature for a decade, collaborated in writing A History of the Book in America and the Cambridge History of American Literature, and compiled the anthology of colonial verse, American Poetry: the Seventeenth and Eighteen Centuries for the Library of America. His monographs, Oracles of Empire and Civil Tongues and Polite Letters in British America, are central works in early American Studies. Shields owns one of the premier collections of stage and cinema still photographs in private hands. His website, Broadway Photographs is the standard reference for the visual culture of the American stage from the Civil War through the 20th Century. His book Still: American Silent Motion Picture Photography (University of Chicago Press) won the American Popular Culture Association’s Ray Browne Award for the best single work on American Popular Culture in 2013. Shields is currently the Chairman of the Carolina Gold Rice Foundation, the non-profit group whose mission is to preserve and restore the agriculture and cultivars of the American South. He and collaborators Glenn Roberts, Brian Ward, and Sean Brock have brought back into cultivation and culinary use: Carolina Gold Rice, Sea Island White Flint Corn, the Carolina African Peanut, the Sea Island red pea, benne, the rice pea, enyama sorghum, and the Bradford Watermelon. On April 1, 2015, the University of Chicago Press published his culinary history, Southern Provisions: On the Creation and Revival of Cuisine. Next year, it will publish his collection of 200 biographies, Culinarians: American Chefs, Caterers, and Restaurateurs 1793–1919.


The mission of The Chipstone Foundation is to promote and enhance appreciation and knowledge of American material culture (emphasizing the decorative arts) by scholars, students and the general public. For more information, visit www.chipstone.org.

Location & Directions

all programs will be held at

South Carolina Society Hall

72 Meeting Street, Charleston, SC 29401

Ample on-street parking available; please click here for directions.

south carolina society hall was designed by Gabriel Manigault and built between 1799 and 1804; its portico, designed by Frederick Wesner, was added in 1825. Read more about its history and purpose.

Distinguished Speakers Series Archive

2015 Speakers

Click on the images below to watch videos of each Distinguished Speaker’s presentation.

  • February 19, 2015

    George W. McDaniel, Ph.D.

    Memories and Meanings:
    Reflections on Drayton Hall
    by Charles H. Drayton, III, and Other Descendants

  • March 26, 2015

    Libby O'Connell, Ph.D.

    From the Charleston Table to the American Plate:
    Looking at Foodways, South and North

  • April 16, 2015

    Brian Jordan, Ph.D.

    Marching Home: Union and Confederate
    Veterans and Their Unending Civil War

  • September 17, 2015

    Carter C. Hudgins, Ph. D.

    Preserving the Past, Preparing the Future:
    Celebrating Ten Years of Wood Family Fellows
    at Drayton Hall

  • October 15, 2015

    Suzanne F. Hood

    China of the Most Fashionable Sort:
    Chinese Export Porcelain in Colonial America

  • November 19, 2015

    Cary Carson, Ph. D.

    All Dressed Up, But No Place To Go

2014 Speakers

Click on the images below to watch videos of each Distinguished Speaker’s presentation.

  • February 20, 2014

    Michael Jarvis

    Shaftesbury, Bermuda, and the Settlement
    of Carolina, or the Other Important
    B-island in South Carolina’s History

  • March 20, 2014

    Mary Beth Norton

    Beyond Boston: The Fate of the
    Seven Tea Ships of 1773

  • April 17, 2014

    S. Max Edelson

    Mapping Carolina: Cartography and the
    Quest for Empire in the Colonial Southeast

  • September 18, 2014

    Ronald L. Hurst

    A Rich and Varied Culture:
    The Material World of the Early South

  • October 16, 2014

    Andrew J. O’Shaughnessy

    The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of the Empire

  • November 20, 2014

    Jill M. Lord

    Improvement of the Americas: The Architecture of Colonial American Libraries

Drayton Hall, view from portico, black and white

About Drayton Hall

Founded in 1738, Drayton Hall is the nation’s earliest example of fully executed Palladian architecture and the oldest preserved plantation house in America still open to the public. After seven generations, the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, and numerous hurricanes and earthquakes, the main house remains in nearly original condition. A National Historic Landmark, Drayton Hall is a property of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and is administered by The Drayton Hall Preservation Trust.

When the National Trust acquired Drayton Hall in 1974, it made the decision to “preserve” or stabilize the site. This action—unprecedented in its day—set Drayton Hall on a course unique among historic sites: it preserved its authentic, centuries-old timeline of history rather than restoring it to one specific period. Because it has never been modernized with electric lighting, plumbing, or central heating or air conditioning, the main house remains unfurnished, allowing the beauty of the architectural details to come through.

Through archaeological investigations and ongoing research and study, Drayton Hall has developed a significant collection of 18th- and 19th-century decorative arts and artifacts that is awaiting future facilities. Included is the most significant piece of furniture in Drayton Hall’s collection: a rare, British-made bureau-bookcase, c. 1745. Considered one of the finest examples of furniture to survive from colonial America, it is now on exhibit along with 26 other Drayton Hall collections objects at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum at Colonial Williamsburg.

Learn more about becoming a member on the Friends of Drayton Hall.

Drayton Hall bureau bookcase, black and white