Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



In Approaching Textiles, Varying Viewpoints: Proceedings of the Seventh Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2000


Copyright © 2000 by the author(s).


Williams College is a small liberal arts college in Massachusetts, with about 300 faculty and 2000 undergraduates. Here at the college, there is a Center for Humanities and Social Sciences, whose purpose is to foster inter-discipline research and discussion for the faculty. The Oakley Center has allowed interested faculty the opportunity to present ideas in various types of seminars, so that new topics of scholarship can be researched,. with the participation of faculty in unrelated fields.

In the fall of 1999, a Faculty and Staff Discussion Seminar on Weaving and Textiles was offered at the Oakley Center. Meredith Hoppin, a Classics Professor and then the Director of the Center, had early meetings with me about focusing on this broad topic for one of the Center's offerings for that particular school year. I am the Costume Designer for the Theatre Department at Williams College. My interest in textiles is an obvious one. Textiles are part of my every day work. Here was an opportunity to explore ideas with a complement of scholars from many fields. Meredith and I began to shape this offering for the upcoming fall.

The seminar was open to the college's faculty and staff. Both Meredith and I knew of various professors and professionals who have some interest in textiles, and we both hoped that they would take part in the seminar. Some of these people were connoisseurs and collectors with a narrow interest in one particular subject, such as kilim fragments or lace. Some were weavers themselves. Some had an interest in Women's Studies, while others were interested in the use of weaving language in storytelling. And finally, we had some who had no knowledge of any study of textiles or understanding of any aspect of the topic we were exploring. So we had a broad range of interests that could travel far. Also we had a wonderful coincidence take place as we began our preliminary meetings in the spring, when we discovered that Nancy Matthew's, a curator at the Williams College Museum of Art, was planning to exhibit textiles from the college's holdings in January 2000. This was the first time that textiles were ever exhibited at the museum. And the seminar helped Nancy as an unofficial advisory group.

The final participants included faculty and professional staff. The fields and organizations represented were: Sociology, Economics, English, Religion, History, Classics, Theatre, Williams College Alumni Review, and Williams College Museum of Art.