The Decorative Arts of the Gulf South (DAGS) research project at The Historic New Orleans Collection, formerly known as the Classical Institute of the South (CIS), catalogs historic objects made or used in Louisiana, Mississippi, or Alabama dating from the eighteenth century to 1865. Its discoveries about Gulf South material culture are available in a free online database hosted by the Louisiana Digital Library and managed by THNOC staff.

Anyone can browse the database’s images and descriptions of thousands of historic decorative arts objects, many of them in private collections, documented by DAGS field work teams. Entries include furniture, ceramics, textiles, paintings, and silver, plus a wide array of more unusual and everyday pieces. These objects shed light on daily life in the past, as well as the region’s economic expansion and reliance on the slavery in the early nineteenth century. Gulf South residents active in a global economy, using the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico to trade with cities throughout the United States and across the Atlantic Ocean.

With questions about DAGS or to suggest a potential field work site, contact DAGS coordinator and research curator Sarah Duggan at (504) 556-7668 or

Summer Fellowships


 DAGS Fellows at work in the field. 

DAGS offers two annual summer fellowships for graduate students or emerging professionals in history, material culture, and art history. For most of July, fellows travel around the Gulf South documenting historic decorative arts with the DAGS coordinator/research curator. Survey objects are typically in private collections, often in situ in historic homes.

Fellows receive:

  • $2,000 stipend
  • Scholarship to the New Orleans Antiques Forum, which concludes the fellowship
  • Opportunity to write an object profile for THNOC's First Draft blog series
  • Housing and transportation during the fellowship, plus reimbursement for travel expenses to and from New Orleans
  • Orientation lectures and museum field trips providing background information about Gulf South history and material culture
  • Training in object photography and data entry procedures
  • Hands-on study opportunities with a wide range of decorative arts objects
  • Resume-building hands-on experience that makes an essential contribution to an ongoing museum research project

After several days of orientation at THNOC, fellows travel to fieldwork sites with the DAGS coordinator/research curator.

Fieldwork usually takes place 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, although some weekend or evening work may be necessary, depending on site availability. Applicants must be able to travel and work in the field for extended periods of time, and be flexible and responsive to evolving work conditions and climates.


Frequently Asked Questions

Sample Fellowship Schedule

Upcoming Fellowships

DAGS is now recruiting for two fellowships that will take place from July 5 - August 7, 2022. To apply, please send a CV, a cover letter explaining your interest in the project, and two references to 

2022 Fellowship Announcement

About DAGS

DAGS fellows and alumni at the 2017 New Orleans Antiques Forum

Decorative Arts of the Gulf South began as the Classical Institute of the South (CIS), an independent project founded in 2011 by New Orleans attorney Paul Haygood. The Historic New Orleans Collection incorporated CIS into its mission in 2016, establishing the Paul M. Haygood Fund to honor the memory of CIS’s founder and to enable future field survey work. In 2021, the project rebranded as DAGS

Since 2011, DAGS teams have recorded thousands of important pre–Civil War objects in dozens of residences, churches, and museums. Past field surveys have included sites in New Orleans and St. Francisville, Louisiana; Natchez, Port Gibson, Woodville, and Columbus, Mississippi; and Camden, Demopolis, and Huntsville, Alabama. Braving summer heat and humidity, the intrepid DAGS explorers have discovered rare treasures and made lasting connections with local residents who embody the best of southern hospitality.

The DAGS Summer fellowship is a proven resume-building opportunity for students and young professionals entering the decorative arts field. Past participants have secured jobs as curators, appraisers, and independent contractors at many esteemed institutions, including Mount Vernon, Colonial Williamsburg, Yale University Art Gallery, the New York Yacht Club, the Museum of the American Revolution, Wipiak Consulting, and The Historic New Orleans Collection.

The project has received coverage in national and regional media such as The Magazine AntiquesThe New York TimesAL.comThe Baton Rouge AdvocateThe Columbus DispatchThe Natchez Democrat, and The Historic New Orleans Collection Quarterly

DAGS is assisted by an Advisory Board that includes decorative arts scholars from New Orleans and beyond. Matthew A. Thurlow, Executive Director of the Decorative Arts Trust, serves as Advisory Board Chairman.