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Distinguished Speakers Series

About the Series

The Friends of Drayton Hall are pleased to present the fourth season of the Drayton Hall Distinguished Speakers Series. Beginning with the opening event of the 2017 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 The Charleston Museum.

Spring Series

March through
April at 6:30pm.

Fall Series

October through
November at 6:30pm.

Advance Registration Required

Doors open at 5:30pm with a Wine and Cheese Reception.
Presentations start promptly at 6:30pm.
Advance registration required; please arrive early for prime seating.
The 2017 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 2017 Speakers

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March 21, 2017

Will Cook

Will Cook,
Associate General Counsel, National Trust for Historic Preservation

From Charleston to the Grand Canyon:
Using Preservation Law to Protect
Historic Places and Cultural Landscapes

Historic preservation law plays a crucial role in in the preservation of America’s heritage. Using recent examples and narratives, Will Cook will explore preservation success stories, and a few losses, through a legal lens. In keeping with this theme, Mr. Cook will survey ongoing preservation battles on issues ranging from cruise ships in Charleston and windfarms in Nantucket Sound to recent efforts to exploit the iconic Grand Canyon, Hudson River Palisades, and James River view sheds near Jamestowne, Virginia. This multi-media presentation will conclude with a discussion of preservation legal trends and suggest creative strategies for advocates to consider.

Will Cook is an associate general counsel at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Recent projects include defending the use of historic tax credits, helping stop federal agency approval of the world’s largest wind farm in the middle of Nantucket Sound, securing boundaries for a traditional cultural landscape in New Mexico, helping stop inappropriate development near the Grand Canyon, and supporting historic property owners against the harmful effects of massive cruise ships in the Port of Charleston. He also serves as a board member on the Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation. Prior to joining the National Trust, Will taught as an assistant professor at the Charleston School of Law in the areas of property law, constitutional law, historic preservation, and art and cultural heritage law. Will has also worked at a nationally recognized law firm and for an international auction house in New York City. While in Charleston, Will served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Preservation Society. Will also teaches preservation law at Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation, and lectures regularly to national audiences on issues related to property, land use, and historic preservation law.

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April 18, 2017

Tiya Miles

Tiya Miles,
Mary Henrietta Graham Distinguished University Professor, University of Michigan

Phantoms of the Plantation South:
An Exploration of Ghost Tourism
at Sites of Slavery

Ghost tourism is steadily competing with traditional tourism in America’s historic places today, including plantation sites and urban centers in the South that have been shaped by histories of slavery. This lecture explores ways in which enslaved figures from the past have been folded into popular ghost tour narratives and touches on how these touristic interpretations misrepresent racial and gender dynamics of the 19th century. The talk is intended to spark productive dialogue about how we remember difficult aspects of our regional and national pasts.

Tiya Miles is the Mary Henrietta Graham Distinguished University Professor at the University of Michigan, where she teaches in the departments of Afro-American & African Studies, American Culture, History, Native American Studies and Women's Studies. She is the author of two prize-winning works of history, Ties That Bind: The Story of an Afro-Cherokee Family in Slavery and Freedom (2005) and The House on Diamond Hill: A Cherokee Plantation Story (2010). She has published historical fiction, The Cherokee Rose (2015), a travel narrative about historic sites of slavery, Tales from the Haunted South (2015), and various articles on women’s history and black and indigenous interrelated experience. She is co-editor, with Sharon P. Holland, of Crossing Waters, Crossing Worlds: The African Diaspora in Indian Country (2006). Her work has been supported in recent years by the Mellon Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation. Miles is currently writing a history of slavery in Detroit.

Fall 2017 Speakers

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October 17, 2017

Christopher M. Swan

Christopher M. Swan,
Senior Conservator of Wooden Artifacts, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

Furniture Conservation:
Some Finer Points

In light of the recent collaboration between Drayton Hall and The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation (CWF), decorative and historic objects currently are on loan and featured in “A Rich and Varied Culture” exhibit of the Dewitt Wallace Museum. In exchange for the object loans, the CWF Conservation labs have undertaken recent conservation treatments to prepare the objects for the gallery. Currently on view are two important Drayton family furniture objects, a Charleston clothespress, and a British secretary bookcase, that will serve as a starting point for a discussion on the theory and practice of studying and restoring objects for display. Conservation embraces a broad spectrum of activities from risk assessment and preventive care, to materials analysis, to hands-on bench-treatments. CWF’s Chris Swan will offer insights on the work of a conservator in a museum setting identifying and managing these processes of preservation in the course of interpreting historic and artistic objects.

Chris is a conservator of furniture and wooden artifacts at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation in Virginia where he has been since February, 1999, and where he also completed his third-year graduate internship, and a Getty post-graduate internship from 1994–1996. In between positions in Williamsburg, he served two years as the Mellon Fellow and then as Assistant Conservator in Furniture Conservation at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Chris is a 1985 graduate of the University of Dallas, and a 1995 graduate of the Buffalo State College Art Conservation Master’s Degree Program.

Among other subjects, he has lectured on: Photo-documentation of Furniture, Packing and Crating Furniture for Collectors, Caring For Wooden Artifacts, Wood Identification for Collectors, Painted Furniture, and The Making and Use of Reproductions at Colonial Williamsburg, Picture Frames: Style, Materials, and Conservation, and Minimally Invasive Upholstery Systems. He is an Associate Member of the American Institute for Conservation, and of the Virginia Conservation Association.

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November 14, 2017

Robert Hunter

Robert Hunter,
Editor, Ceramics in America

A Peculiar Look at the 18th-Century
Ceramics of Drayton Hall

Archaeological research at Drayton Hall has produced some of the most significant 18th-century ceramic artifacts yet discovered in America. Vestiges of Greek and Roman mythology, Chinese mysticism, and the courtly practices of European kings and queens are reflected in the broken fragments that have been left behind. This beautifully illustrated lecture will examine the deeper economic, social, and psychological meanings underlying these ceramics as used in the Drayton family’s drinking and dining rituals. In addition, the mysterious acquisition by Charles Drayton of an English facsimile of the famous “Barberini Vase” will be highlighted. The first century Roman cameo glass vase is considered by many to be the finest glass object in all of antiquity.

Robert Hunter (Rob) has over 35 years of professional experience in prehistoric and historical archaeology. He has a M.A. in Anthropology from the College of William and Mary. Since 2001, he has been editor of the annual journal, Ceramics in America, published by the Chipstone Foundation of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Mr. Hunter lectures widely and participates in the New York Ceramics Fair in January each year. In addition to numerous scholarly articles and book chapters, he has written for other ceramic publications including The Magazine ANTIQUES, The Catalogue of Antiques & Fine Art, New England Antiques Journal, Early American Life, Ceramic Review, Studio Potter, Ceramics: Art and Perception, Pottery Making Illustrated, Kerameiki Techni and the Journal of Archaeological Science.

He is an elected Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London, a board member of the American Ceramic Circle, and on the advisory board of the online ceramic publication, CFile.


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

The Charleston Museum

360 Meeting Street, Charleston, SC 29403

Ample parking available; please click here for directions.

Distinguished Speakers Series Archive

2016 Speakers

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

  • February 18, 2016

    Patricia Lowe Smith

    The Best Portico:
    Rehabilitating an Architectural Icon

  • March 24, 2016

    Dean Jonathan Holloway

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

  • April 21, 2016

    Henry Noltie, Ph.D.

    John Hope: Botanist
    of the Scottish Enlightenment

  • September 15, 2016

    Sarah Stroud Clarke

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

  • October 20, 2016

    William M. Kelso, Ph.D.

    Jamestowne, The Buried Truth
    (video not available)

  • November 17, 2016

    David S. Shields, Ph. D.

    Creating the
    World Orchard

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