Old Salem Museums & Gardens
Old Salem Museums & Gardens is a comprehensive history attraction. Comprised of three main areas—the Historic Town of Salem, the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA), and the Gardens at Old Salem—visitors are immersed in an educational and memorable historical experience about those who lived and worked in the early South. What started in 1950 by a group of local volunteers as a means to preserve and restore the history of Salem has grown into a thriving museum location with a research center and 11 gardens.
There’s something for just about everyone to see and do in the Historic Town of Salem. See what it was like to live in the 18th century with demonstrations of daily life activities, such as churning butter and food preparation, quilting, and candle making. You can also partake in historic workshops that are offered throughout the year where you’ll learn the skills that are practiced in the museum. From hearthside cooking to creating your own pewter spoon, you can see what it was really like to live in a bygone era. You also won’t want to miss a tour of the Home Moravian Church, constructed in 1800, and the God’s Acre Cemetery adjacent to the church.
MESDA offers a variety of tours and ticket packages to meet the interests of visitors. There are two new self-guided galleries: The Carolyn and Mike McNamara Southern Masterworks Gallery and the William C. and Susan S. Mariner Southern Ceramics Gallery. These galleries tell the story of the South through the objects made and used by its diverse craftsmen. You can also experience guided tours through the study galleries at MESDA. Tickets for behind the scenes guided tours of MESDA’s study galleries can be purchased at the Frank L. Horton Museum Center. It is recommended that you make reservations for tours in advance as they do sell out.
The Gardens at Old Salem remain focused on creating a landscape recalling early Salem where utility, practicality, and beauty united. The gardens today feature open-pollinated heirlooms, with seed saving a core mission. Discover the beauty and utility of the gardens in Old Salem with one of the gardens and landscape tour options.
Tickets are required for entry into the exhibit buildings and the facility is typically open Tuesday through Sunday. No tickets or admission is required for the visitor center or the shops. Be prepared to spend the entire day at Old Salem.
Photos by James Stewart