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By Nancy Kolsti

GEORGIA KEMP CARAWAY'S CHILDHOOD HOME wasn’t filled with treasured items from past generations.

“My parents got rid of things instead of saving them,” she says.

Today, however, Caraway’s Denton home contains 19th-century furniture, early 20th-century pottery and other treasures befitting an expert on antiques and collectibles.

Caraway (’88 M.S., ’95 Ph.D.) is the founder and executive director of the Texas Institute of Antiques & Collectibles. Offering nine classes toward a certificate in antiques and collectibles, the Texas Institute is one of only five such institutes in the nation. Caraway also teaches a course for UNT’s Center for Continuing Education and Conference Management. The author of Tips, Tools & Techniques for Caring for Your Antiques & Collectibles, she writes a weekly column for the Denton Record- Chronicle. Caraway also offers estate appraisal and liquidation services. She was even an appraiser for Antiques Roadshow on PBS.

Not small accomplishments for a former banking executive whose interest in antiques came with marriage, and who educated herself about that interest.

“Bob (’60), my husband, had a house full of antiques and reproductions,” she says. “He had Chippendale chairs, and I had beanbags. I knew nothing about antiques. I read every book I could find.”


From business to history

A native of Burgettstown, Pa., Caraway attended business school in Pittsburgh after high school. While working at a bank in Dallas, she completed a bachelor’s degree in management at Louisiana State University through a program for female banking executives. She decided to earn an M.B.A. from UNT. A European vacation changed that plan, however.

“I fell in love with history,” Caraway says.

She left the bank and enrolled in UNT’s interdisciplinary master’s program in Texas studies. She received her master’s degree in 1988. She then earned a doctor of philosophy degree in higher education administration.


Living room class

While a student, Caraway began her antiques career by operating a store and a booth in an antiques mall. In 1992, she met Beth Stribling, an assistant with UNT’s minicourse program, and agreed to teach an “Introduction to Antiques” course.

In 1995, Caraway responded to students’ desire for more classes by opening the Texas Institute of Antiques & Collectibles, which has had more than 700 students.

“My goal in the Texas Institute is to make the courses affordable to many people, and to make them fun. That’s why I teach in my home,” Caraway says.

During class, students may view Caraway’s own collections of beaded purses, thimbles and sewing instruments, costume jewelry, and art pottery. Her favorite collection is pottery made during the early 1900s by students at the College of Industrial Arts, now Texas Woman’s University.

“The pottery they produced is as beautiful as well-known art pottery,” Caraway says.

In 1997, Caraway was recruited for the Dallas stop of Antiques Roadshow, now in its fourth season on PBS. In the series, specialists from leading auction houses and independent appraisers and dealers offer free, public appraisals of antiques and collectibles. Caraway examined 20th-century collectibles with two familiar faces to Roadshow viewers — Rudy Franchi of Boston’s The Nostalgia Factory and Kathleen Guzman of Phillips Auction House in New York City.


A teacher first

Since 1998, Caraway has balanced her antiques career with her duties as director of the Denton County Courthouse-on-the-Square Museum. Her UNT degrees have proven vital for that job.

“This museum focuses on Texas and Denton County history. In my master’s program, I read hundreds of books about Texas and took numerous Texas history courses,” she says. “And the research, supervisory and organization skills I learned in the doctoral program are very important for this job.”

Though she works long hours at the museum, Caraway doesn’t plan to cut down on her antiques courses.

“Since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a teacher, and now I’m finally doing that,” she says. “I’ve kept in touch with students. I get a lot more out of teaching in terms of relationships and sharing what I love than I do in terms of money. If I was doing this only for the money, I wouldn’t be doing it."


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