At the Art Institute, Watt will oversee the museum’s holdings of more than 13,000 textiles and 66,000 sample swatches, which range from 300 B.C. until today. Among the collection’s focuses are Pre-Columbian textiles, 16th- and 17th-century English needlework, American quilts, and 20th-century fiber art.
In a statement, the Art Institute’s director, James Rondeau, said, “I am thrilled for our museum and our visitors that she is joining us in this crucial position and will re-energize our ambitious efforts to grow and elevate the reputation of our renowned Textiles department and present innovative and dynamic exhibitions.”
Watt has held various positions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York since 1994, beginning as an assistant in the Costume Institute. She has served as supervising curator of the museum’s textile center since 2009 and as curator in the department of European Decorative Arts since 2016.
In that role, she oversaw the curation and management of the museum’s vast holdings of over 16,000 Western European textiles and 500 fans. Her exhibitions at the Met include “The Secret Life of Textiles: The Milton Sonday Archive” in 2017, “Elaborate Embroidery: Fabrics for Menswear before 1815” in 2015, and “William Morris: Textiles and Wallpapers” in 2014, among others.