A Journey into The Met’s “Jewelry: The Body Transformed” Exhibit with Beth Carver Wees, Ruth Bigelow Wriston Curator of American Decorative Arts at The Met

Episode 10

Beth Carver Wees is the Ruth Bigelow Wriston Curator of American Decorative Arts at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she oversees the collections of American silver, jewelry and other metalwork. She is one of six organizing curators for The Met’s current exhibition, Jewelry: The Body Transformed (through February 24, 2019), as well as a contributor to the accompanying catalog. In addition, she is preparing a special installation of The Met’s American jewelry, which will be on display from June 2019 through January 2020.

Prior to joining The Met’s staff in 2000, Beth was Curator of Decorative Arts at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA. She holds degrees in art history from Smith College and the Williams College Graduate Program in the History of Art. An enthusiast for Britain’s historic houses, Beth is an alumna of the Attingham Summer School and the Royal Collection Studies, and sits on the board of the American Friends of Attingham as Secretary. She lectures internationally and is the author of numerous articles and books, including English, Irish & Scottish Silver at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute (1997) and Early American Silver in The Metropolitan Museum of Art (2013).

What you’ll learn in this episode:

  • The concept behind the “Jewelry: The Body Transformed” exhibit and how it was structured to tell stories of the pieces in the exhibit.
  • Why museums often obtain jewelry through bequest, and how it can sometimes lead to gaps in their collections.
  • What pieces in the museum’s collection are Beth’s favorites, and why their historical value is so appealing.
  • Why you don’t need expensive materials to make meaningful and impressive jewelry, and what pieces The Met has on display in this category.
  • A preview of The Met’s upcoming exhibit surveying American jewelry from colonial times through today.

Additional resources:

Episode Transcript

Sharon Berman