The Signature Quilt ProjectEssay | Bibliography | Galleries | Search | View all Identified Signature Quilts
The Signature Quilt Project is an international initiative to collect data on quilts that hold multiple signatures and to provide searchable access to that data through the Quilt Index. The data presented through this project is expected to not only shed new light on the traditions of making quilts with multiple signatures but also to support humanistic and social science studies of families, organizations, communities, and social, political, ethnic, regional, and religious groups.
History of the projectIn 2003, in response to a growing recognition amongst scholars of the need to systematically document Signature Quilts, Lynn Lancaster Gorges approached Nancy Hornback at the American Quilt Study Group (AQSG) meeting in Dallas with the suggestion of creating a systematic study that would also collect data into one database. Nancy and Lynn were joined by Cinda Cawley, Karen Alexander and Jan Gessin to explore the possibilities. This committee then consulted with the Quilt Index administration team and drafted a Signature Quilt documentation form that incorporated the Quilt Index Comprehensive Fields. For a variety of reasons the Signature Quilt Project lay dormant until a time-limited grant in 2009 from the Salser Foundation, facilitated by Susan Salser and Shelly Zegart, enabled the project to move forward.
The reconfigured Signature Quilt Project team worked closely with the Quilt Index management team to complete the steps necessary to launch the project. One of the first tasks was to establish the working definition of signature quilt that would be used for the project and it was decided that it would be quilts that carry multiple names. Over a period of 8 months, the development team held monthly project administration phone conferences, recruited submissions, developed an innovative training module for submitters that used simultaneous phone conferencing and web-based instruction, conducted four training sessions with 38 participants, investigated methods of cross-indexing and enhancing data on signature quilts already in the Index, and oversaw the uploading of new signature quilts. One important component of the project was the creation of a public submission form that enabled individual submissions directly into the Signature Quilt Project, a development that paves the way for individual public submissions to the Quilt Index in general.
By the October 2009 end of the grant period, more than 50 quilts had been entered into the Signature Quilt Project. Included are those of groups of families and/or friends, community/commemorative signature quilts (i.e. Odd Fellows, Jasper County Courthouse, Depot Harbor, WTCU, Brownsville TN Fundraising Quilt, Bicentennial), ones dealing with healing cancer (i.e. Friendship Sampler and Love to Wini 3) and several done in the redwork style. Some of the earliest date from the 1840s (i.e. Chintz Appliqué, Turkey Tracks NY, Grafton MA quilt, My Sweet Sister Emma, Upstate NY Friendship Quilt, and Album Patch (Nancy)) and a number of them date from the turn of the 20th century, a period some quilt scholars have referred to as the golden age of signature quilts.
Future growth of the projectFollowing the public launch of this project, the Signature Quilt Project team hopes that more individuals will be inspired to document quilts with multiple signatures. The SQP team and the QI staff will evaluate this pilot and make plans for future public input.
AcknowledgementsThanks very much to Lynn Gorges for engaging Nancy Hornback in 2003 to jointly begin the Signature Quilt Project, to the Salser Foundation for supporting a specific focus on Signature Quilts for the Quilt Index pilot of public object submissions, to the Institute of Museum and Library Services (which is supporting the development of public object submissions to the Quilt Index), and to the members of the American Quilt Study Group listserv for sparking the conversation that led to the present convergence in spring 2009. Thanks also to those quilt owners who participated in the 2009 piloting and launch of this project.
Those who served on the 2009 Quilt Index Signature Quilt Project development team were Karen Alexander, Beth Donaldson, Lynn Gorges, Nancy Hornback, Marsha MacDowell, Amy Milne, Justine Richardson, Susan Salser, Amanda Grace Sikarskie, Mary Worrall, and Shelly Zegart.June 2009 Update (pdf) | Call for Participation (pdf)