williams-elizabethRHODE ISLAND
Elizabeth Williams ’05
Curator of decorative arts and design, Rhode Island School of Design Museum

Interns everywhere could learn a lot from Elizabeth Williams (M.A. ’05). When Williams started working at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art while pursuing her master’s degree at UMKC, she was an intern. By the time she left, she was an assistant curator.

Today, Williams is the curator of Decorative Arts and Design at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum in Providence. The collection includes books, furniture, games, jewelry, musical instruments and even toys.

Williams says she has been drawn to art since she was a child, but as a practical person, appreciates art that also serves a useful purpose.

“They are those objects that have brought aesthetic presence and functional design to the tasks, routines, celebrations and rituals of everyday life for centuries; they tell the story of how we live.”

Williams specializes in decorative arts, specifically 18th and 19th century silver. Precious metals are interesting, she says, because societies use them to create some of their most important and sacred objects.

“Silver can be made into simple vessels or implements, or the most grand of presentations,” she says. “It survives and endures through the passage of time, but can be — and was — readily melted down for a new creation or used for its intrinsic monetary value in time of need.”

As caretaker of more than 27,000 pieces of art, Williams says one of her most important roles is that of storyteller.

“The goal is to share an interesting story with your visitors that engages a wide range of audiences from a number of perspectives.”

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