Elizabeth Deans

photo of elizabeth deans
Assistant Professor of Decorative Arts & Design History; Director of Graduate Studies, MA Decorative Arts & Design History Program
Room 3048, Smithsonian Ripley Center, Suite 3077


Professor Deans’s teaching interests relate the history of European and American architecture and interiors to object culture. She is particularly interested in exploring diachronic theories of design history and applying interdisciplinary methodologies linking materials, objects, spaces, makers, and designers. Professor Deans teaches Proseminar; Survey of Decorative Arts & Design (1400-1800); British Empire & Luxury, 1600-1800; Global Survey of Ceramics; The Home: History & Theory of an Idea; Global Materiality of the Book; and Early Modern European Interiors.


Current Research

Professor Deans’s current research project examines the materiality and objectivity of British designers from the late seventeenth through eighteenth centuries through an interdisciplinary lens. She is interested in tracing the development of the design profession through the culture of copying, recording, and collecting demonstrated by book and object culture and the idea of designers as readers and autodidactic learners. Professor Deans reconsiders how the book is employed as an object and a product of the design process, particularly in early modern England.


Publications & Presentations

Professor Deans presents at many national and international conferences and participated on panels in the area of design history. Most recently she presented her recent article on "Tools of Taste & Erudition: Portable Object Culture & Mimetic Praxis of British Architects, 1700-1780." in the Netherlands at the European Architectural History Network and will present her research on the cultivation of intellectual culture by amateur designers through object culture at the upcoming American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies annual meeting. Her presentations include:

  • “Dabbling in Design: Architectural Albums as Autodidactic Tools for Amateurs,” at the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies Annual Conference, Orlando, Florida, March 2018.
  • “Tools for Touring: Portable Object Culture & Mimetic Praxis of Architects in Britain, 1700-1760,”European Architectural History Network in 'Tools of the Architect,' November 2017.
  • “18th-century European Architecture and Enlightenment Culture,” at the World Affairs Council, May 2017.
  • Review of Display of Art in the Roman Palace 1550-1750, ed. Gail Feigenbaum. Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2014. West 86th: A Journal of Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture 23, no. 1 (Spring-Summer 2016): 137-139.
  • “Marvelous Volumes: Artistry of the 18th-century Architect’s Portfolio,” at the Rienzi Symposium, A Sense of Proportion: Architect-Designed Objects, 1650–1950 at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Texas, September 2016.
  • “Popularizing Design: Travel Books and the Promotion of Design Drawing in 18th-Century Europe,” at the conference: Architectural Stimuli for Human Existence at Conference for Doğu Akdeniz Akademik Araştırmalar Merkezi, Istanbul, Turkey, June 2015.



  • Peter Rollins Early Faculty Grant, Popular Culture Association, 2015
  • Edward Vason Jones Scholar Grant, Institute of Classical Architecture, 2011
  • Hannah McCarthy Smith Memorial Rome Grant, Institute of Classical Architecture, 2011
  • Smithsonian Curatorial Fellowship, Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, 2010



BA Design Studies, Architectural History, University of Maryland at College Park
MA History of Decorative Arts and Design, Parsons, The New School for Design
PhD History of Art, Candidate, University of York, UK


Professional Organizations

  • American Society of Eighteenth Century Studies
  • European Architectural History Network
  • Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain