The International Quilt Study Center and Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska holds 4500 quilts and textile related items and is the world’s largest quilt museum! Also known as the Quilt House.
Of course, being a quilter and collector, I’ve been wanting to visit since this new building opened almost 6 years ago but never thought I’d get the VIP treatment!
Ardis and Robert James, well-known quilt collectors, gave their 950 piece collection to the museum, plus a sizeable donation to build the Quilt House. Ardis passed away a few years ago but Robert is still on the board and contributing to every aspect of keeping this museum as one of the top in all the world. He is donating a new wing that will be ready in less than two years with a larger exhibition area to show more of their permanent collection.
(inside stairway to the galleries, designed by Robert A.M. Stern, one of my favorite architects)
How did I get to go? At the opening reception of the Quilt National show, I was seated at the head table with Robert James. After dinner, he asked me if I had been to the Quilt House and I said that I hadn’t but would love to see it one day. Kathleen Dawson, director of Quilt National, said that we should go together and Robert James offered us air tickets to go! I didn’t even realize who he was at dinner because they called him ‘Bob’! ha! How lucky was that?
At the top of the stairs is a gathering space which is the shape of a piece of wedding ring quilt pattern….an oval pointed at both ends. Everything in this building is state-of-the-art with security!
A docent took us on a tour of the three gallery shows and I will write about that and include photos in the next blog. After the tour we went ‘behind the scenes’ on the first floor.
In the examination room run by Kim, there was a beautiful quilt on the table with chintz fabric borders. Here is where they examine the quilts, clean them and do any work on them. All the folded quilts have to be refolded every two years to prevent creasing and then they are stored with acid-free tissue paper between the layers and placed in archival boxes. Usually the quilts are only shown once every ten years.
All new incoming quilts and quilts that have been outside of storage and are returning get vacuumed for bugs and dust by volunteers. They use a very low power of suction and vacuum through a screen.
The room off of this is the storage area with rows and rows filled with boxes of quilts all numbered and categorized! These units move by a push of the button to reveal one row at a time!
Rows and rows of treasures!
New incoming quilts are also quarantined for potential insects for weeks in plastic bags on these shelves. They also can go into a deep freezer of –40 degrees for 24 hours to kill any eggs. Prevention before they are filed with the collection.
One of the amazing rooms is the photography room. As you can see, there is a flat table to place the quilts. Then two stories straight up is a camera with remote shutter that is connected to a computer and monitor at the lower level. The lights are on big arms that can be moved for even lighting. It is quite an impressive set up!
There are also three giant, approximately 6 ft square, flat files of quilts. Anything with paint or lots of embellishments or fragile quilts need to be stored flat.
What was in these flat files? I’ll give you a peek next blog!