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The Annual Textile Museum Fall Symposium

The annual Textile Museum Fall Symposium is designed to bring together individuals interested in learning more about textiles and to promote scholarship, camaraderie, and the informal exchange of ideas. For information on past symposia, click here.




2013 Textile Museum Symposium


The 41st annual Textile Museum Fall Symposium will explore themes raised in the concurrent exhibition Out of Southeast Asia: Art That Sustains.
Phu Thai women performing for textile tourists, northeast Thailand. Photo courtesy of Sandra Cate.
There are over one-thousand ethnic groups in Southeast Asia, many with unique textile traditions—yet this region is seeing increased development and globalization that is challenging the continuation of these long-inherited art forms. Join us for an engaging weekend that will bridge the fields of art history, anthropology, international development, and design.

Through five dynamic presentations, a roundtable discussion, curators' tour and the popular interactive “Show and Tell” session for collectors, “From Village and Court to Global Commodity: Southeast Asian Textiles” will shed light on the many ways regional textile arts are adapting to the twenty-first century.


Friday, October 11
7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Museum members and symposium registrants are invited to A Night to Remember, a reception celebrating The Textile Museum's eighty-eight year legacy on S Street. Attendees will enjoy wine, hors d’oeuvres, and tours that take a walk through The TM’s historyfrom family home to world-renowned museum. To learn more, visit www.textilemuseum.org/nighttoremember

Saturday, October 12
The Phillips Collection Auditorium
1600 21st Street, NW

Washington, DC 20008

Coffee and Pastries • 9–9:45 AM

Morning Presentations • 9:45 AM–12 PM
Moderator: Joel Kuipers, Ph.D., Professor of Anthropology and International Affairs, The George Washington University

Jim Thompson
Sarong, Indonesia, Lembata, Lama Lerap, late 19th century. TM 68.19. Acquired by George Hewitt Myers in 1957.
• Indonesian Textile Studies: Past, Present, and Future
Ruth Barnes, Ph.D.
Senior Curator of Indo-Pacific Art, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT
Dr. Ruth Barnes will offer an overview of Indonesian textile studies, from the early twentieth century (when the field was initiated in the Netherlands) to new directions in ethnographic and historical enquiry from the 1980s onwards. Inevitable social changes in Southeast Asia have yielded changes to the production of the region’s traditional arts, including its textile traditions. The lecture will explore the effect of these changes on the study of weaving and textiles, and offer possible new approaches to research.

Man's shoulder or hip cloth (sikalau namilau), Fataluku people. Tutuala, Lautem, Timor Leste (East Timor). Photo by Jill Forshee, 2010.

• The Reckoning of the World: Weavers’ Stories from East Timor
Jill Forshee
, Ph.D.
Cultural Anthropologist, Columbia College Chicago
East Timor gained national independence from Indonesia in 1999, ending twenty-five years of internal warfare and resistance. Today, East Timor is the poorest country in Southeast Asia, with a long history of rule by outside forces. Yet life’s creations and explanations carry on, as people struggle to maintain personal, cultural, and clan identities within a new nationalism and increasing forms of globalization. Local histories are central to these identities, and Dr. Jill Forshee has conducted original fieldwork in East Timor over the past twelve years. The stories she’s collected reveal much about the local people’s histories of struggle and violence, as well as the persistence of cultural expressions such as the textile arts and folklore. Forshee’s lecture will touch upon a few weaver's stories of the significance of cloth in their lives over the past sixty years.

Detail of a shaman’s cloth with elephant motifs (phaa mau phii), Laos, Hua Phan Province, Tai Daeng People, ca. 1900–1950. TM 1991.18.1. Ruth Lincoln Fisher Memorial Fund.

• When an Elephant is more than an Elephant: Lao-Tai Textiles in Ritual Context
Ellison Findly, Ph.D.*
Professor, Religion and Asian Studies, Trinity College, Hartford, CT
The textiles of the Lao-Tai in northeastern Laos range from everyday indigo cotton shirts and pants to elaborately woven supplementary weft pieces like shawls and headcloths that are used by shamans in ritually charged settings. The dense figural designs decorating Lao textiles make the artform unique. It would be easy if the weaver could say "this design is used in this textile, by this shaman, in this ritual," but that's not the case. In almost every instance, each weaver has a unique view about meaning, colored by her age and experience, religious affiliation, family background, and imagination. Dr. Findly’s talk will explore the pleasures and difficulties of working with multivalence of meaning and use in a cultural setting that, in modern times, is changing at a rapid rate.
*Due to a serious health issue, Ellison Findly, Ph.D., will unable to deliver her lecture in person. Mattiebelle Gittinger, Ph.D., Textile Museum research associate for Southeast Asia and recognized expert on Southeast Asian textiles, will present the lecture on Dr. Findly's behalf. Dr. Gittinger is also the curator of Out of Southeast Asia: Art That Sustains.

Lunch • 12–2 PM
Lunch is on your own, a list of area restaurants will be provided.

Afternoon Presentations • 2–5 PM
Moderator: Christina Fink, Ph.D., Professor of Practice in International Affairs, The George Washington University

Jim Thompson
Jim Thompson, courtesy of Jim Thompson Silk Company.
.• Jim Thompson Thai Silk Company:
The History, Mystery, and Promise of the Future
Tim Johnson
Director of Sales and Marketing, Jim Thompson America, Atlanta, GA

For over half a century, Jim Thompson Thai Silk Company has enjoyed the reputation as the legendary manufacturer of Thai silk. It is also the largest producer of hand-woven fabrics in the world today—complete with a company mulberry plantation, silkworm farm, art center, museum, and retail shops. Tim Johnson will provide a brief history of the company’s legendary founder, Jim Thompson, and his fascinating life in Thailand as well as the origins of the Thai Silk Company. Johnson will also discuss sericulture in Thailand and the process of creating hand-woven textiles such as ikats and warp prints for the international interior design market.

Weaver Textile tourists discussing weaving in the village, northern Laos. Photo courtesy of Sandra Cate.  

• Traveling New Silk Roads: Tourists and Their Impact on Southeast Asian Textiles
Sandra Cate, Ph.D.
Lecturer, San Jose State University, San Jose, CA
International buyers, collectors, casual tourists, and backpackers alike now travel along modern Silk Roads throughout Southeast Asia. Seeking the sources of exotic textiles, they visit demonstrations, shop at showrooms in the cities, negotiate at local markets, and stop in remote villages to chat with women working at looms. These encounters represent essential cultural contact points that allow local weavers and needle workers to learn foreign design and color preferences, as well as new economic values. For their part, travelers gain a sense of environmental context; the cultural importance of weaving and needlework; and a deeper appreciation of skill and local knowledge. Based on ethnographic fieldwork (2002-2013) in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, as well as with Hmong and Mien women in Northern California, Dr. Cate’s presentation will explore these intercultural encounters and detail how textile tourism has changed production practices in village households and city workshops.

• Roundtable Discussion
Moderators: Joel Kuipers, Ph.D. GW, Dept. of Anthropology
Christina Fink, Ph.D., GW, Elliot School of International Affairs
Symposium speakers will respond to selected questions from the audience.

Sunday, October 13
The Textile Museum
2320 S Street, NW
Washington, DC 20008

Continental Breakfast • 9–9:45 AM

Curator’s Tour 9:45–10:30 AM
Out of Southeast Asia: Art that Sustains

Mattiebelle Gittinger, Ph.D., Research Associate, Southeast Asian Textiles

Visit Turkey with The Textile Museum Participants at last year's "Show and Tell" program.  

Show and Tell 10:45 AM–12:30 PM    
Facilitated by Michael M. Seidman, Trustee, The Textile Museum
Share and discuss your own Southeast Asian textiles with the experts. This year’s “Show and Tell” program will also feature a presentation of traditional dress by the Embassy of Indonesia, and a display of the winning pieces from the Embassy's recent American Batik design competitions.


The History and Architecture of The Textile Museum 1:30 PM
Join Textile Museum docents to learn about the historic, 100-year-old buildings of The Textile Museum before the museum moves to the campus of the George Washington University.

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The Normandy hotel is conveniently located within walking distance of The Textile Museum. Please see below for details about discounted room rates. Please note that rates are subject to change based on availability, so guests should plan to reserve space as early as possible.

Normandy Hotel
2118 Wyoming Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008
For reservations, call (202) 483-1350 by Wednesday, September 19. Please ask for The Textile Museum preferred rate: $199 (based on availability), not including room tax of 14.5% per room, per night. There is an additional $20 per day for triple/quad occupancy.

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The Textile Museum is pleased to offer ten scholarships for this year’s annual Fall Symposium, “From Village and Court to Global Commodity: Southeast Asian Textiles,” October 1213, 2013.

Visit Turkey with The Textile Museum Silk in the workshop of Carol Cassidy, Lao Textiles. Courtesy of Carol Cassidy.  

Undergraduate and graduate students in Southeast Asian studies, art history, anthropology, or a textile-related course of study are invited to apply. The scholarship will cover the cost of symposium registration for each recipient, it is not a cash award.

The Textile Museum believes that this scholarship opportunity at its annual symposium is a tangible way to express the museum’s commitment to academic leadership in textile research and will ensure that the next generation of textile experts receives the unique and in-depth knowledge that can only come at a conference such as this.

To apply, please submit:

  1. Completed application form
  2. A paragraph (maximum 250 words) outlining how participating in The Textile Museum’s Annual Fall Symposium would relate to and benefit your education, chosen career path, and professional goals
  3. Resume (2 pages maximum)
  4. Two letters of recommendation

Scholarship submissions will be reviewed by The Textile Museum Symposium Awards Committee.

Deadline: To be considered for a scholarship, completed applications must be received by COB, August 30, 2013. Recipients will be notified by September 13, 2013.

Applications and recommendations can be emailed to info@textilemuseum.org with “Symposium Scholarship” in the subject line, faxed to (202) 483-0994 or mailed to The Textile Museum, Attn: Tom Goehner, 2320 S St. NW, Washington, DC 20008.


Bring new ideas back to your classroom!

The Textile Museum is pleased to offer five individual scholarships to D.C. public school and public charter school educators. The scholarship will cover the cost of symposium registration for each recipient, it is not a cash award. The Textile Museum Scholarship for D.C.P.S. Educators is open to all teachers employed at any D.C. Public or Public Charter School for the 2012-2013 academic school year.

To apply, please submit:
1.  Completed application form
2.  A brief bio (250 words) that will be used in symposium literature at the museum’s discretion.

Deadline: Complete applications must be received by COB Friday, September 20, 2013.  Recipients will be notified by email no later than September 27, 2013.

Applications and recommendations can be emailed to info@textilemuseum.org with “Symposium DCPS Educators Scholarship” in the subject line, faxed to (202) 483-0994 or mailed to The Textile Museum, Attn: Tom Goehner, 2320 S St. NW, Washington, DC 20008.

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Registration is now open. To reserve your seat, call (202) 667-0441 ext. 64, email sfreeman@textilemuseum.org, or register online. If you do not register online through The Textile Museum Shop, you will need to fill out a registration form.

$225/TM members; $270/non-members (includes a one-year TM membership); $180/students (includes a one year TM membership; valid student I.D. required)

$270/TM members; $315/non-members (includes a one-year TM membership); $220/students (includes a one-year TM membership; a valid student I.D. required)

Student scholarships are available; see above for details. Refunds will not be available after September 14, 2013.


Online registration is available through The Textile Museum Shop.

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© 2013 THE TEXTILE MUSEUM 2320 S Street, NW, Washington, DC 20008-4088 (202) 667-0441