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Guest Blog: Discovering a Museum-Quality Treasure at an Estate Sale

Guest Blog by: Courtney McNeil, Chief Curator of Collections and Exhibitions, Telfair Museums (


Discovering a Museum-Quality Treasure at an Estate Sale

I have long been a fan of scouring estate sales for my own home, but I never imagined that this hobby could lead to the acquisition of a treasured work of art for the collection of the museum I work for!

When I noticed that a recent estate sale by The Mint Green Tag Sale Company included some interesting examples of fine art, I passed the information around to my colleagues. One of them astutely pointed out that one of the works in the sale had been featured in an exhibition at Telfair Museums back in the 1990s. It is a charming Savannah street scene painted in 1954 by Phillip Hampton (1922-2016), a professor and director of the art department at Savannah State College from 1952 to 1969. A well-respected painter and printmaker, he organized numerous exhibitions of work by African American artists, including one at Telfair in the 1960s. He was active in the struggle for the recognition and exhibition of African American artists’ work through his involvement with the National Conference of Artists (founded 1957) and other organizations. Hampton was not previously represented in Telfair’s permanent collection, and this particular composition (depicting Savannah’s Gwinnett Street), is an excellent example of his early Savannah street scenes.

Because the sale was happening soon and the museum’s formal acquisitions process requires us to go through several steps of internal review before we able to make a purchase of a work of art for the collection, we acted quickly to enlist the support of the museum’s director and the chair of our collections committee. With all the internal paperwork completed, our collections manager staked out a place in line two hours before the sale began, and we were all so thrilled to hear that she was able to secure the painting for purchase by the museum!

Because it is a work on paper and is therefore susceptible to damage from extended exposure to light, we will not be able to put the Hampton painting on permanent view. But we look forward to exhibiting it soon, most likely at the Telfair Academy alongside other Savannah scenes from the middle of the 20th century.


As a thank you for Courtney’s contributing Blog she will receive a $25 credit good at the next Estate Sale.  Would you like to receive a $25 credit and show off your treasure hunting skills or knowledge?  Check out the post here to see how: CLICK