Reynolda house names former monticello curator new director of interpretive program

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Sarah Smith


WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (Jan. 8, 2012) – Reynolda House Museum of American Art has named Elizabeth Chew the museum’s Betsy Main Babcock Director of the Curatorial and Education Division. Chew comes to Reynolda House from Monticello, the historic Virginia estate of Thomas Jefferson, where she serves as curator. She will begin her new position at Reynolda House Feb. 1.

“I am delighted to welcome Elizabeth to the senior leadership team of Reynolda House,” says Allison Perkins, Reynolda House executive director. “She is passionate about engaging visitors in museums; the superb results of her creativity, vision and scholarship in interpreting Thomas Jefferson’s home and collections are experienced by every visitor to Monticello. Her unbeatable combination of expertise and experience working with American art and historic houses is an ideal fit for Reynolda House.”

In her new position, Chew will provide direction and leadership for the development of interpretation, programming, education and research of the museum’s collections and exhibitions. The collections of Reynolda House are comprised of the nationally acclaimed American art collection; the historic house collection, which includes decorative arts and costumes; and the archives.

Perkins said the new senior level position is designed to advance the capacity of Reynolda House to serve local and national audiences. Chew, who holds a Ph.D. in the history of art, will lead the museum’s research and program development plans to honor the centennial of historic Reynolda House and the 50th anniversary of the museum of American art in 2017.

“The story of Reynolda is much more than a local or regional story; Reynolda is an American story,” Chew says. “I don’t see Reynolda as an art museum in a historic house – or as a historic house with an art museum. It is one seamless and unique experience, and I want to help push those identities closer together.”

Chew was recently featured on CBS Sunday Morning in a segment focused on the dichotomy of Thomas Jefferson as both champion of liberty and a slaveholder. She was instrumental in the creation of the Thomas Jefferson Visitor Center at Monticello which opened in 2009 and was co-curator of the exhibition “Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello: Paradox of Liberty,” on view at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture through October 2012 and opening at the Atlanta History Center in February.

Prior to joining Monticello in 2000, Chew was the assistant curator at The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. She was also the exhibitions assistant in the department of American and British art at the National Gallery of Art, and served as the curatorial assistant in the department of photography at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. She is widely published on interdisciplinary scholarship ranging from family and gender to relationships between architecture and material culture.

“I have loved Reynolda since the first time I visited,” Chew said. “Its unique combination of stellar art collection, fascinating historic house and grounds, and engaging education and public programs make it an ideal environment for every visitor to find a personal connection.”

A member of the museum’s National Advisory Council from 2009-2012, Chew received a bachelor’s degree in history of art from Yale University and a master’s degree in history of art from Courtauld Institute of Art in London. She earned a Ph.D. in the history of art from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2000. She is married and has a 10 year-old son.

The director of curatorial and educational affairs is an endowed position at the museum, funded by the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation in memory of Betsy Main Babcock. Four staff members in this division will report to Chew: Director of Public Programs Phil Archer, Director of Archives and Library Todd Crumley, Director of Education Kathleen Hutton and Curator Allison Slaby.

About Reynolda House

Reynolda House Museum of American Art is one of the nation’s premier American art museums, with masterpieces by Mary Cassatt, Frederic Church, Jacob Lawrence, Georgia O’Keeffe and Gilbert Stuart among its collection.  Affiliated with Wake Forest University, Reynolda House features changing exhibitions, concerts, lectures, classes, film screenings and other events.  The museum is located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina in the historic 1917 estate of Katharine Smith Reynolds and her husband, Richard Joshua Reynolds, founder of the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. Reynolda House and adjacent Reynolda Gardens and Reynolda Village feature a spectacular public garden, dining, shopping and walking trails. For more information, please visit or call 336.758.5150. Connect at and @CurateReynolda.


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