Monday, May 11, 2009

A Quilt Index Update



DES MOINES, IOWA, ASHEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA and EAST LANSING, MICHIGAN -May 8, 2009 - The Quilt Index, a partner project of the Alliance for American Quilts and Michigan State University, announces the public launch of an online resource cataloging nearly 2,300 quilts by 2,100 quiltmakers from Iowa, including quilts and other textiles collected by one of the leaders in quilt documentation.

This is the 8th state or regional documentation project to be added to the Quilt Index, and one of the largest. The Iowa quilts bring the total number of quilt records available at the online archive to more than 21,000, including quilts from museum and private collections. The Iowa quilts are a treasure to everyone from scholars to quiltmakers, covering many familiar patterns like Drunkard’s Path, Log Cabin and Irish Chain, as well as some unusual variations and original designs.

The Iowa Quilt Research Project was established in September 1987 to seek out and register Iowa quilts made prior to 1925 and record their history and makers. More than 500 volunteers staffed Quilt Discovery Days in 13 regions around the state.

While recording information about cultural, historical and ethnic influences on quiltmaking in Iowa, the Iowa Quilt Research Project increased awareness of the value of quilts and encouraged quilt preservation. The resulting body of information was presented to the State Historical Society of Iowa in 1990 for preservation and to make it accessible to a wider audience.

An inductee into The Quilters Hall of Fame, Mary Barton of Ames, Iowa, is recognized as one of the first to document not only finished quilts, but also the methods, manners and social mores of mid-19th century quiltmakers.

Her desire to collect, understand and share has resulted in one of the most comprehensive collections of quilts, quilt blocks, fabric swatches, magazines, fashion plates and costumes ever assembled and donated to public institutions.

Nearly 200 textiles from her collection are recorded in the Quilt Index, including her own Heritage Quilt (pictured below), which was exhibited at the 1999 International Quilt Festival in the “Quilt Show of the Century”.

Within the Index archives, Mary Barton’s collection is filed first and it’s worth browsing through to see what a keen eye she had for quilts. The three quilts shown here are all part of her marvelous collection. Both “Crossed Canoes,” the blue and white quilt (pictured above), and “Spider Web” (pictured below), were produced by unknown quiltmakers, and their beauty reinforces the sadness of lost history. The impressive appliqued Heritage Quilt was both designed and sewn by Mary Barton, completed in 1976. The full documentation for this quilt includes this information about the quiltmaker: “Mary Barton did not actually enjoy quilting - her interest was in the history of creating quilts.”

The State Historical Society of Iowa is pleased to partner with Michigan State University, the Alliance for American Quilts and the Institute of Museum and Library Services on the Quilt Index

“The Quilt Index brings Iowa’s quilting heritage to a national level, as well as allows us to share the wealth of the Mary Barton Collection with the greater quilting community,” said Jodi Evans, project manager and registrar for the State Historical Museum in Iowa.

Iowa’s initial participation in the Quilt Index will be supplemented with the addition of information and images of quilts held in the collection of the State Historical Society of Iowa.

The Quilt Index is run in partnership by the Alliance for American Quilts, Michigan State University Museum, and MATRIX - The Center for Humane Arts, Letters and Social Sciences at Michigan State University. The Quilt Index merges tradition with technology and springs from the work of a unique team of researchers and experts committed to making significant, quilt-related data widely accessible to both scholars and the general public.

Applications to become Quilt Index contributors are now being accepted from institutions or quilt documentation projects, with a deadline of May 31, 2009. Information and application materials can be found at:

Amy E. Milne, Executive Director
(828) 251-7073

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