Organizations: Telfair Museums
The Telfair Museums of Savannah just completed an award-winning, $1.25-million reinterpretation project called Slavery and Freedom in Savannah, which has transformed the Owens-Thomas House and Slave Quarters with new exhibits and narratives to correspond with the 200th anniversary of the buildings. The past meets the future as new, interactive exhibits incorporate tools such as iPads to aid with visualizing the bygone operations of this grand mansion.
Between eight and 14 enslaved people – half of them children – tended the house from 1819 to the end of the Civil War.
“We strive to show how enslaved men, women and children may have lived,” says deputy director Molly Taylor. “We felt a vital duty to tell the entire story and do justice to the house. We tell the story of people living and working together in very close quarters – the most powerful and the least powerful.”
The slave quarters, which are now part of the tour, feature the largest example of “haint” blue painting known to exist in America. Composed of indigo, lime and buttermilk, it was believed to ward off evil spirits.
The Owens-Thomas House is one of three properties under the umbrella of the Telfair Museums. The other two are the Telfair Academy and the Jepson Center. Opened in 1886, the Telfair is the oldest public art museum in the South and features a world-class art collection in the heart of Savannah’s National Historic Landmark District. On Feb. 23, the 39th annual Telfair Ball fundraiser will mark the organization’s 200th anniversary.
The organization attracts 192,000 visitors each year, including 6,500 students who enjoy free tours.
“We try to create a meaningful, powerful experience for all age groups,” Taylor says.