Curator of Decorative Arts and Design Appointed
The Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design announced the appointment of Elizabeth A. Williams as Curator of Decorative Arts and Design, concluding a nationwide search. In her new role, Williams will be responsible for the interpretation, development and care of the RISD Museum’s significant collection of American and European Decorative Arts, with emphasis on exhibitions, publications, and participation in Museum teaching and community engagement. “I am thrilled to welcome Elizabeth Williams as the newest member of the RISD Museum’s exceptional curatorial team,” says John W. Smith, Museum Director. “She brings an impressive record of exhibition development, scholarship, and community engagement, and I am confident that she will lead a dynamic revitalization of the RISD Museum’s acclaimed collection of American and European decorative arts and design.” Williams, who begins her position in January 2013, says, “It will be a true privilege to work with RISD’s outstanding collection of decorative arts and be part of the staff of this exceptional museum. I very much look forward to connecting with the design school and the community through the Museum’s diverse decorative arts holdings.”
Williams—whose expertise includes 18th- and 19th-century silver, such as works from Providence’s Gorham Manufacturing Company, of which many fine examples are in the RISD Museum’s collection—comes to the RISD Museum of Art from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). As the Marilyn B. and Calvin B. Gross Assistant Curator of Decorative Arts and Design since 2009, Williams has worked with the museum’s European, American, and Modern collections of furniture, ceramics, silver, glass, enamel and metalwork. Her accomplishments at LACMA include developing and managing the recent reinstallation of 450 pieces of decorative arts in the museum’s European galleries, and collaborating with The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation for a 38-piece loan to LACMA from the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Gilbert Collection of silver, micro-mosaics, pietre dure, portrait miniatures, and gold boxes. Her work encouraged a gift by Lady Marjorie Gilbert of 12 significant objects from the Gilbert Collection. Williams also developed relationships with foundation and private donors resulting in more than $3.5 million of acquisition gifts and purchases to
LACMA’s Decorative Arts and Design department, and nearly $300,000 in funding. Additionally, she was integral in creating new educational and interpretive materials for European decorative arts objects, as well as collection material for the museum’s website and mobile tour app.
Williams’ exhibitions and installations at LACMA include Daily Pleasures: French Ceramics from the MaryLou Boone Collection and The Gilbert Collection at LACMA. Her publications include catalogues for Daily Pleasures and The Gilbert Collection, as well as an essay on 18th-century Chinoiserie silver in Britain in the anthology Material Culture and Gender in Eighteenth-Century Europe, part of The Histories of Material Culture and Collecting, 1700-1950 series (Ashgate, 2013).
A native of Kansas City, Williams is a Ph.D. candidate (ABD) in the Kress Foundation Department of Art History at the University of Kansas, where her dissertation studies the influence of Japanese aesthetics on European and American silver as manifested in the Aesthetic Movement and the Art Nouveau style—with a specific focus on at the works of Gorham Manufacturing Company. She served as Assistant Curator of Decorative Arts at the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City (2007-2009) and held curatorial and research positions at the museum following the completion of her Master of Arts in Art History at the University of Missouri–Kansas City in 2005. In 2009, Williams attended the Victorian Society in America Nineteenth- Century Studies Summer School in Newport, Rhode Island, and in 2008 she participated in The Attingham Trust for the Study of Historic Houses and Collections Summer School Program in Britain. She is a member of the American Association of Museums, American Ceramic Circle, American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, Association of Art Museum Curators, College Art Association, Midwest Art History Society, ICOM, International Committee for Museums and Collections of Decorative Arts & Design, American Friends of Attingham, and The Victorian Society.