The Old Chapel on the UMass Amherst Campus.

Symposium to Celebrate History of Art and Architecture Professor Walter Denny’s Scholarship in Islamic Art on Oct. 21


Walter Denny examining a rug
Walter Denny

The Department of History of Art and Architecture will host a symposium to honor University Distinguished Professor of the History of Art and Architecture Walter Denny on Saturday, Oct. 21, from 2 to 6 p.m. in Old Chapel.

All are welcome to the event celebrating Denny’s scholarship in Islamic art and his 53 years of teaching at the university. Symposium speakers will include:

  • Yael Rice, associate professor, Islamic Art, Amherst College, “The Museum That Once Was: Mughal Art in the Age of Hindu Nationalism”
  • Laura Weinstein, curator of South Asian and Islamic Art, Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, “All Songs Alike Refer to God: Islamic Art at the MFA, Boston under Ananda K. Coomaraswamy”
  • Aimée Froom, curator of Arts of the Islamic World, Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, “New Beginnings: The Hossein Afshar Galleries for Art of the Islamic Worlds at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.” 
  • Amanda Phillips, associate professor, Islamic Art and Material Culture, University of Virginia, “Silk and Wool in the Ottoman Empire and Republican Turkey: Memory Palaces and Museums”
  • Margaret Squires, doctoral. candidate, The Courtauld Institute of Art, “Frayed Edges: Approaching the Carpet Fragment in the Museum.”
  • Sumru Krody, senior curator, The Textile Museum, Washington D.C., “Fiber of Being: Discovering the World of Textiles.”

Denny earned his bachelor’s degree in art history at Oberlin College in 1964 and his master’s and doctoral degrees from Harvard University in 1965 and 1971. His primary field of teaching and research is the art and architecture of the Islamic world, in particular the artistic traditions of the Ottoman Turks, Islamic carpets and textiles and issues of economics and patronage in Islamic art. In addition to specialized upper-level courses in the history of decorative art, orientalism and the history of the oriental carpet, he has also taught a graduate seminar in art museum studies for almost four decades. In fall 2022, Denny taught the course, Art History 115, 48 times, which means that over the years he has introduced more than 10,000 students to the basics of the visual arts, as well as training master’s degree students as teaching assistants.

In addition to curatorships at the Harvard University (1970-2000) and Smith College (2000-05) art museums, in September of 2002, he was named Charles Grant Ellis Research Associate in Oriental Carpets at The Textile Museum in Washington, D.C. From 2013-14 he was the first Nasser David Khalili Visiting Professor of Islamic Art at Queens College, City University of New York. He served as Senior Scholar in Residence in the Department of Islamic Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art from 2007-13, and again from 2014-17, and currently chairs the Visiting Committee for the Met’s Department of Textile Conservation.

Throughout his career, Denny has curated numerous exhibitions and catalogues, delivered lectures across the world, and earned significant awards and recognition for his work. At the UMass Amherst, Denny received the Distinguished Outreach Award, the Distinguished Teaching Award, and the award for Distinguished Accomplishments in Creativity and Research. He also won a Samuel Conti Faculty Fellowship in the 2012-13 academic year and is the recipient of the Chancellor's Medal and the Medal of the Arthur Kinney Center for Interdisciplinary Renaissance Studies.

For questions about the symposium, please contact Timothy Rohan, department chair at, or Regina Bortone de Sa, department administrator, at