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Sandra Niessen - CV

I (Canadian and Dutch) am a freelance anthropologist living in The Netherlands.

I undertook my first fieldwork expedition in 1979 with the goal of exploring the thought-world of the Batak of North Sumatra. It was a transformative experience that provided direction for the rest of my career; it was at this time that I decided to use the indigenous weavings to guide my explorations.

I obtained my PhD cum laude at Leiden University (Netherlands) in 1985 for my dissertation entitled Motifs of Life in Toba Batak Texts and Textiles. Since then, in addition to dozens of articles, I have published two more books on the topic, Batak Cloth and Clothing: A Dynamic Indonesian Tradition (1993) and, very recently, my magnum opus, Legacy in cloth: Batak textiles of Indonesia (2009). The culmination of thirty years of research, the book documents the full repertory of textile types of the Toba, Karo and Simalungun Batak, including their history and techniques of production.

I am currently working on a project to bring copies of this volume back to the villages in North Sumatra so that the weavers and their families can regain access to their textile heritage, much of which has been lost. I hope to track the impact of this book on Batak weaving in the future.

My interest in indigenous Batak cloth has lured me into the depots of major ethnographic collections in Europe and North America and inspired my more general inquiry into material culture and museum history. I have worked at the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver, Bronbeek Museum in Arnhem and the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam and I have participated in the production of numerous exhibitions and exhibit catalogues. The Department of Human Ecology at the University of Alberta, where I taught for 15 years (1987 – 2002), had a Clothing and Textiles Study Collection and trained students for museum careers. In 2006, I guest-curated a major exhibition about Batak textiles, entitled Woven Worlds at the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam.

Non-Western craft and non-Western clothing in the global forum are prominent themes in many of my writings.

Under the name, Bergoord Publishing, I provide publishing assistance and, as a native English speaker in The Netherlands, I frequently do text translations (Dutch to English) and correction (English).

In my spare time, I all too often still find myself at the computer, but then to explore my own Dutch cultural and family history. I am involved in numerous local history publication projects as well as a group that has assembled to protect the local 19th century estates in my community.

See an Outline CV which may be downloaded in pdf format (121K).

This summary CV may be downloaded in pdf (87K) format.

For a personal biographic statement see Exploring Magic in Batak textiles.

For further information, to purchase Legacy in cloth, Batak textiles of Indonesia, or for a detailed professional resumé please contact me.