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EXHIBITION OF RARE ASIAN TEXTILES AT HAVERFORD COLLEGE COLLECTING CONTEXT: AN EXHIBITION OF CHIN TEXTILES WITH A STORY

Rare textiles of the Chin peoples, a heterogeneous hill group living in western Myanmar (Burma), northeastern India, and Bangladesh, will be on view at the John B. Hurford ’60 Humanities Center, Stokes Building, Room 102, from February 16 to March 25, 2007. Collecting Context: An Exhibition of Chin Textiles with a Story includes 13 ceremonial costumes and blankets, and historic and contemporary photographs that show how Chin peoples use these textiles, which are central to Chin social life.

Collecting Context is unique in its dual focus on the objects and on collecting. Chin sellers and donors of textiles, dealers, and collectors work together (despite differing goals) to produce knowledge and aesthetic judgments about Chin material culture. The 13 previously unexhibited (and some unpublished) cloaks, loincloths, skirts, and blankets, along with the photographs and multi-media display, speak to Chin cultural traditions and innovations, and to the collector’s role in creating Chin textiles as objects of value.

David W. Fraser '65, MD curated the exhibition with Haverford faculty member Maris Gillette. Since 2000, David and Barbara G. Fraser have made seven study trips to western Myanmar and northeast India to study and collect Chin textiles, and have visited archival, photographic, and material collections about the Chin in Asia, Europe, and North America. They have published articles and a book on Chin material culture, the prize-winning Mantles of Merit: Chin Textiles from Myanmar, India and Bangladesh (River Books, 2005); the Frasers also have curated exhibitions at the University of Pennsylvania, Denison University, and The Textile Museum. Dr. Fraser was President of Swarthmore College from 1982-1991; headed health, education, and housing activities in South Asia and East Africa for the Aga Khan Secretariat from 1991-1995; and was Executive Director of the International Clinical Epidemiology Network from 1996-2000. He is currently an independent consultant on epidemiology, international health, education, and material culture, and a Research Associate at the Textile Museum and the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Maris Gillette is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Haverford and Research Associate in East Asian Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. She specializes in Chinese material culture and has co-curated exhibitions at the Peabody Museum and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Collecting Context: An Exhibition of Chin Textiles with a Story is open to the public, free of charge, from noon to 5 p.m. daily through March 25, 2007. The exhibit is sponsored by the Hurford Humanities Center, which was established to foster challenging exchange among faculty, students, and diverse communities of thinkers, activists, and innovators. The Hurford Center sponsors programs that promote a deeper relationship between classic humanistic study and contemporary intellectual, artistic, and ethical currents in the wider public world. For further information, contact Emily Cronin at (610) 896-1336 or by email at ecronin@haverford.edu

The ramp from Magill Library with Ryan Gym and Sharpless Hall in the background.

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