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Friends of the Owens-Thomas House and Director’s Circle members are invited to the next series of Dinner with the Experts.

Lecture Series II: November 1, 8, 15

Furnished: Explorations of Decorative Arts

November 15, 2020 The Material World of Dolley Madison by Elizabeth Chew

Beyond ice cream and snack cakes, Dolley Madison is known for her hospitality, personal charm, and “invention” of the role of the First Lady. At the Madisons’ Montpelier plantation in Virginia and in Washington,D.C., Dolley Madison used fashion, domestic interiors, tablewares, and food in the service of her and her husband’s political and social ambitions. In this talk, Elizabeth Chew, Executive Vice President and Chief Curator at James Madison’s Montpelier, will consider how Dolley Madison’s adept deployment of the material contributed to one of the most famous partnerships in American history.

Elizabeth Chew, Ph.D. is Executive Vice President and Chief Curator at James Madison’s Montpelier, where she oversees the Curatorial, Education, Historic Preservation, Archaeology, and Research departments. An art historian, she holds a B.A. from Yale, an M.A. from the Courtauld Institute of the University of London and a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has worked at museums and historic sites since 1985, including ten years in art museums in Washington, D.C. At Montpelier she has overseen furnishing of the Madisons’ house, the excavation and reconstruction of six slave dwellings and work buildings, the creation of the exhibition The Mere Distinction of Colour, winner of six national awards. As curator at Monticello for thirteen years, she was instrumental in expanding interpretation to include women, domestic work, and slavery. She curated the exhibition “‘To Try All Things’: Monticello as Experiment” in the David M. Rubenstein Visitor Center and was co-curator, with Rex Ellis of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, of the exhibition Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello: Paradox of Liberty. She has taught art history at the University of North Carolina, University of Virginia, James Madison University, Wake Forest University, and Davidson College and published and lectured widely on art collecting, architectural patronage, domestic life, and material culture in the early American republic.

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