'Inscribed Quilts' exhibit opens Jan. 13

A quilt featuring information from the UNL Palladian Society (1871-1921).
A quilt featuring information from the UNL Palladian Society (1871-1921).

Quilts are talking through a new exhibition opening today at the International Quilt Study Center and Museum.

The exhibit, "What's in a Name? Inscribed Quilts," features an array of quilts that bear inscriptions made for a variety of reasons over a span of 100 years. The quilts and information gleaned from careful investigation into the inscriptions shed light on the lives of individuals, families and communities.

Inscribed quilts emerged in the United States in the 1840s during a rapid and dramatic shift in quiltmaking traditions. They were often made as gifts for friends and neighbors, marking important life passages such as marriage or childbirth. Westward migration during the mid-19th century also sparked creation of inscribed quilts as poignant reminders of friends and relatives left behind.

The tradition of inscribing quilts continued into the 20th century, although the style of quilts changed with popular taste. Inscribed quilts became special memory devices, creating lasting, tangible records of the makers' and recipients' lives and values, commemorating births, weddings and deaths. Inscribed quilts also remain actively used as fundraisers.

People often long to know the stories of quilts. With diligent research into census records, newspaper archives, and published genealogical histories, quilts with inscriptions can be coaxed to "speak," telling the stories of the people who made them and reflecting the cultural, social and historical contexts of their lives.

A unique pair of quilts featured in "What's in a Name" represent a rare function of inscribed quilts — they were made as celebrity autograph “albums.” The quilts, made almost exactly 100 years apart, represent the same idea — gather as many well-known individuals’ autographs as possible. The range of names found on both quilts represent a literal who's-who of the period in which each was created: politicians, religious leaders, writers and entertainers.

Programming associated with this exhibition includes:
— April 24, noon, Tuesday Talk: "New Palladian Quilt Discoveries,” Mary Ellen Ducey, UNL Library Archives

— Sept. 7, 5:30 p.m., free admission public lecture: Collector and author Julie Silber "Mark My Words," sponsored by the Dillow Excellence Fund.

The International Quilt Study Center and Museum's Carolyn Ducey, curator of collections, and Jonathan Gregory, assistant curator of exhibitions, co-authored a full-color catalog of quilts featured in the exhibition.

For more information on the exhibit or the museum, go to http://www.quiltstudy.org or call 402-472-6459.

The International Quilt Study Center is an academic program of the Department of Textiles, Clothing and Design in the UNL College of Education and Human Sciences.

— Maureen Ose, International Quilt Study Center and Museum

More details at: http://www.quiltstudy.org