Blogger's Note: This semester students taking Care and Conservation of Textiles—a course offered through the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Department of Textiles, Merchandising & Fashion Design—will share some of their experiences working with the International Quilt Study Center & Museum collection.
By Christi Coufal-Tuya
Last week was perhaps my favorite Care and Conservation class thus far. All of the quilts for the UNL employee quilt guild show had arrived and were ready to be installed in the Beavers Terrace Gallery and the third floor conference room and hallway. While I have helped to install shows in the Robert Hillestad Textiles Gallery in the Home Economics building, this was my first experience installing an exhibition at the IQSCM. It was an enlightening experience, to say the least.
This show is particularly difficult from a logistics standpoint. A traditional exhibition a requires many months, sometimes more than a year, of planning. Curators spend months prepping for exhibitions- determining a theme, selecting objects, designing the exhibition, planning the layout, and much, much more. A major part of exhibition planning includes examining objects for size, shape, and condition to identify the best way to hang the object for display. The quilts for the UNL Employee show arrived sporadically over the days before the install, some coming in as late as Monday morning, which left little time to prep them, check that each had a proper hanging sleeve, and confirm measurements to insure that each quilt would fit on the wall in its intended space.
Another thing that made for a challenging installation were the close quarters hat the quilts were to be displayed in. The main galleries have beautiful high ceilings and wide open spaces but issues still arise when hanging shows in those spaces. The third floor hallway and conference room do not have those luxuries, and hanging a show in those spaces requires problem solving and careful maneuvering.
When we arrived for class on Monday, Assistant Curator of Exhibitions Jonathan Gregory had already been hard at work preparing the exhibition spaces and setting the layout so we could all get right to work. He created a layout plan using the ground plan of each space and images of the quilts. Below is the layout of the hallway. On the walls there were images of each quilt in their approximate location with their hanging cords in place.
The class split into two teams each under the tutelage of a curator- Jamie and I worked with Jonathan on the third floor while Sarah, Kami, and Danielle worked with Curator of Collections (and class professor) Carolyn Ducey. Unfortunately, I don’t have many pictures because the whole process was all hands on deck! We used long, clean, tables to layout the quilts and slide in the slats to prepare them for hanging. You’ll notice that in the pictures we aren’t wearing any gloves- this is usually taboo at the museum, but there are some exceptions. It is too hard to sew accurately with thick cotton museum gloves on, so gloves are removed when sewing labels on to the back of objects. The hanging hardware used by the IQSCM is made of metal and tighten with small thumb screws; it would be far too slippery to hang the quilts safely with gloves on. Instead we all wash our hands every 15-30 minutes and be careful not to touch our face or hair, any food, or anything that could transfer to or harm the quilts.
We utilized three different methods of hanging quilts for this show. The majority of the quilts were hung from slats and suspended from two cords and secured with clips. Jamie can be seen tightening a clip after checking that the Seward City Mills quilt was level.
The International Quilt Study Center & Museum makes its academic home in the Department of Textiles, Merchandising & Fashion Design in the College of Education and Human Sciences.