Thursday, January 9, 2014

Five Questions with Marin Hanson - World Quilts: The American Story

In December, the International Quilt Study Center & Museum launched “The American Story,” the first module of the World Quilts website. We asked Marin Hanson, our curator of exhibitions and a member of the website’s curatorial team, five questions about the new project.

Why did IQSCM create World Quilts?

World Quilts is an important project for a couple of primary reasons: 1. We've been collecting, researching and producing exhibitions on worldwide quiltmaking traditions since our inception in 1997. Sharing that information with as broad an audience as possible is a critical part of our mission, which leads to 2. Our website is -- and always has been -- one of the best ways of reaching our audiences, whether it's quilt enthusiasts, history buffs, art lovers, teachers -- whoever. Delivering the information online means we can not only reach a broader audience, but dig in a lot deeper and present more information and images than we could in a physical exhibition.

We launched the World Quilts project with the "American Story" module because American quilts form the core of our collection. We also felt the site would fill a need for a clearinghouse of scholarly, yet accessible information on American quilts. A "one-stop-shop," so to speak. But we cannot wait to start adding other modules that address quiltmaking traditions in other parts of the world. As our collection and research expand across the globe, so will World Quilts.

The website focuses on four main categories: business, creativity, identity and engagement. How did you decide on these sections?

We wanted to present American quilt history thematically rather than chronologically. Quilts represent so much more than single stops along a history timeline. They hold meanings that transcend time periods. As we brainstormed a structure for the website, those four themes rose to the top. They seemed to summarize so many of the meanings that quilts hold for people.

What do you hope people take away from the website when they visit?

I hope they will appreciate the richness of American quilt history, and the applicability it has to so many different disciplines: history, sociology, political science, art, etc. And I hope they will use the site in  different ways: for scholarly research, classroom learning, design inspiration or just plain fulfillment of curiosity! Indeed, I hope some people will use it sort of like Wikipedia: hopping around from page to page as their interests and curiosity suggest.

What is your favorite part of the website?

I'm excited to see what words get added to the tag cloud! On the homepage, visitors can add their own word answering the question, "What do quilts mean to you?"

What’s up next for the World Quilts website?

We are already planning for future modules -- some areas of the world we'd like to address in the near future include East Asia, South Asia and Central Asia. Stay tuned!

Learn more about the project and its contributors here.

Read more about the project on UNL Today.

Marin Hanson is the Curator of Exhibitions at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She holds undergraduate degrees from Grinnell College and Northern Illinois University and earned her MA in museum studies and textile history with a quilt studies emphasis from UNL. Hanson is a PhD candidate in the Department of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester (UK) and is focusing her doctoral research on cross-cultural quiltmaking practices, with particular emphasis on China and the United States. She is also leading the effort to expand the IQSCM collections to include representative examples of quiltmaking and patchwork from all corners of the globe..

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