Meet new Avenir Museum Curator Katie Knowles

Katie Knowles
Katie Knowles

Story by Doreen Beard

The Avenir Museum and the Department of Design and Merchandising are very happy to announce that Katie Knowles will be joining Colorado State University as Avenir curator of collections and assistant professor; her official appointment begins July 1.

Hailing originally from Montana, Knowles holds a Ph.D. in history from Rice University (2014) in Houston, Texas; her dissertation title was “Fashioning Slavery: Slaves and Clothing in the United States South, 1830-1865” and she has broad research interests in United States material culture with emphases on clothing and textiles.

Worked at Smithsonian

In addition to her scholarly training, Knowles has been a museum professional for 10 years, with significant exhibition and cataloging experience working with the textile collections of the Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library in Wilmington, Delaware – one of the premier museum collections of American decorative arts, numbering some 90,000 objects made or used in America between about 1640 and 1860.

Awarded a Smithsonian Institution Postdoctoral Research Fellowship for summer 2014, Knowles has worked since November 2014 as a researcher and cataloger at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, which opened on the National Mall in September 2016. Her duties at the NMAAHC have been wide-ranging: In addition to working with clothing and textiles on both the object and digital record levels, Knowles also served as a member of the museum-wide team developing new museum building mobile apps and the interactive website.

‘Clothing of everyday people’

Knowles is excited at the prospect of joining CSU with a teaching collection such as the Avenir Museum of Design and Merchandising.

“The unique opportunity to combine curatorial work and teaching is particularly appealing to me; I became familiar with the curatorial teaching model while at Winterthur Museum, where all curators teach courses for the University of Delaware-affiliated Graduate Program in American Material Culture,” she said. “My work focuses on the clothing of everyday people, and I strongly believe that the future of design must be informed by knowledge of both the canon of master artists as well as the influences of people typically relegated to the margins. I am deeply committed to fostering inclusive and socially conscious spaces in the classroom and in my community through innovative methods of research, analysis and teaching.”

On a personal level, Knowles has been an avid knitter for over 15 years. She listens to a lot of audio books and podcasts while knitting, and is partial to Louisa May Alcott and historical mysteries. Having grown up in Kansas and Montana, she is looking forward to returning to the West and enjoying the beauty of the land on hikes with her dog Lulu, or admiring the stunning scenery with Ellie the cat.

Please join the Avenir Museum staff and the faculty of the Department of Design and Merchandising in welcoming Katie Knowles to Fort Collins and CSU! The Avenir Museum will host a meet-and-greet occasion for her early in the fall semester; specific details will be on the museum’s website in late summer.