Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Meeting the Quilts

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 Kami Ahrens

I have always taken quilts for granted. Until moving to Lincoln from St. Louis, I never realized the beauty, complexity, and importance quilts could have. Now as a graduate student in a course on the care and conservation of textiles, I am experiencing first-hand just how incredible quilts can be.

Thus far, our course has introduced us to the inner workings of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum and the theoretical basics of preserving a specialized textile collection. More recently, we began processing new acquisitions, or quilts newly accepted into the collection. Quilts accessioned by the museum are put through a process of isolation and sometimes treatment before they are brought into the workroom. These methods are employed in order to ensure no pests—such as carpet beetles, or active mold spores—can endanger the collection.

Once this preliminary process is complete, volunteers and students prepare textiles for permanent storage by vacuuming, surveying, condition reporting, and labeling the artifacts. Though tedious to some, these steps enable us to closely examine the objects and create a detailed record for identification and research purposes. This process exposes me to different methods of quilting and builds my understanding of quilting throughout time and space. Additionally, close examination provides a detailed look at the exquisite art that comprises quilting, such as cording and embroidery.

After studying the artifacts, each student in our class selected a quilt to research and create individual significance statements about. I find this to be one of the most vital steps of museum accessioning, as it connects material objects back to their original context and enriches our understanding of why each artifact should be preserved as a representative sample of the cultures that form the foundation of the world around us.

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.

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