Basket Exhibit

Smith Plantation Historic Site Coordinator Chuck Douglas stands next to two Cherokee double-weave baskets that are a part of the Smith Family Collection Basket Exhibit.

ROSWELL, Ga. — One of Roswell’s historic homes is offering a glimpse into the past through some of the oldest manmade objects: baskets. 

Through Dec. 31, the Smith Family Collection Basket Exhibit will be on display at Smith Plantation. The collection highlights Native American and African baskets. 

“We have many baskets of all types in the Smith Collection, some of which were displayed in an exhibit over 10 years ago,” said Curator Betsy Trope. “We wanted to share recent research and updated information on the African and Native American baskets with a new audience.”

All told, the Smith Collection contains more than 30,000 artifacts. This exhibit will display some of its oldest, most historically significant objects, Trope said. 

“These are practical works of art,” she said. “Cherokee and African basket makers were masters of adapting the natural materials around them to create functional items that also happen to be beautiful.”

The exhibit will teach viewers about the materials, methods and styles used in weaving traditions. 

“All baskets are not created equal,” Trope said. “African and Native American basket makers used very different methods and materials. Both cultures created extremely functional and beautiful baskets, using the natural resources in their environments, though the appearance and mechanics of the baskets are completely different.”

The Smith Plantation was built in 1845 by slave labor and is now open to the pubic as a museum. The home has since become one of the best examples of vernacular architecture, as well as cultural and historical interpretation, found in the region, Trope said.

Several of the baskets in the exhibit belonged to the family. The Lowcountry-style baskets were made by slaves, and the two Cherokee double-weave baskets are believed to have been left behind when the Cherokee were forcibly removed from north Georgia, Trope said. 

Two other Native American baskets in the exhibit are more mysterious, she added. The baskets are not from the Southeast, and museum staff do not know how or when the Smith family acquired them. 

The two Cherokee baskets and a grass cover are some of the highlights of the exhibit.

“The double-weave style, exclusive to the Cherokee, was praised by the earliest European settlers for its beauty, utility and skillful weaving,” Trope said. “Grass covers were commonly used in east Africa and among enslaved people in the South to keep insects and debris out of buckets, churns or bowls. Those in the exhibit were sewn with thread and very thin blades of grass, creating a strong, yet delicate, object.”

The Smith Plantation hosts yearly exhibits with a particular theme or subset of the Smith Collection in addition to the museum’s permanent collections. Pop-up displays are also rotated throughout the year. 

The Smith Family Collection Basket Exhibit is included with the tour of the main house. Tours begin on the hour, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays, and 1-3 p.m. on Sundays. 

For more information about Smith Plantation and the tours, visit roswellgov.com/SmithPlantation.

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