Barbara Harrisson-Güttler (May 20, 1922 – December 26, 2015)
Barbara Harrisson is best known as the former director of the Princessehof Museum in Leeuwarden in The Netherlands. During a period of ten years, from 1977 to 1987, she successfully transformed the Princessehof from a collector’s museum into a scholarly organisation with an international network.
Barbara was born in Reichenstein, Silesia (Germany) in a middle-class family that severely suffered during the war. As a young woman, Barbara survived the horrors of 1945 in Berlin. She got a job in Frankfurt at an English-American company and in 1953 married Tom Harrisson, ethnologist and curator of the Sarawak Museum in Borneo. Apart from doing archeological fieldwork, Barbara developed an interest in Asian export ceramics found locally. After Tom’s retirement in 1967 he got an appointment at Cornell University, NY, where Barbara could study and wrote her Ph.D. thesis on Asian export ceramics. The couple divorced and in 1975 Barbara accepted a teaching job at the Western Australia University in Perth. Due to reducements, her contract there was not continued but she got the position of director in Leeuwarden, where the collection of Swatow, Martabans and other south-east Asian ceramics matched her interests. In 1987 she retired, but continued her researches and lived in Jelsum, close to Leeuwarden. She still lectured widely and had an extensive network of friends and colleagues. Her publications include Swatow (1979), Pusaka, Heirloom Jars of Borneo (1986) and Later Ceramics in South-East Asia (1995).
Barbara was an independent, strong-willed woman, a dedicated researcher and a great colleague. She freely shared her knowledge and had a wide interest. She will be sorely missed.