Collection Website: http://www.dar.org/museum/
The DAR Museum collects quilts of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The collection is particularly strong in early quilts and counterpanes, including wholecloth, framed medallion, and whitework bedcoverings dating from the late eighteenth century through the first decades of the1800s. Mid-century floral appliqués are also well represented, as are late-nineteenth century pieced quilts in both cotton and silk, including typical log cabin and crazy quilts of the turn of the twentieth century. The Museum is also fortunate to own seven Maryland and Baltimore appliqué quilts of the mid-nineteenth century. Because most of the quilts were donated by DAR members, the quilt maker’s name, or at least some family and regional information, is usually known. Many of the quilts have had extensive genealogical research on their makers provided with, or subsequently done on, the donation.
The DAR Museum was founded in 1890, concurrent with its parent organization, the National Society Daughters of the Revolution. The DAR was one of many historical and genealogical societies founded in the years following the nation’s centennial in 1876. Membership in the DAR is open to those women who can document descent from someone—man or woman—who supported the cause of liberty during the Revolutionary War, either by fighting, feeding the troops, supplying goods or money, or serving in the new United States Government.
From the beginning, the DAR members wanted to preserve the objects of the past, and to “study the manners and measures of those days….Especially it is desired to preserve some record of the heroic deeds of American women.” The relics and handicrafts of women have filled the DAR Museum from its inception. Quilts, counterpanes, coverlets, and other textile and household items found a home in the DAR Museum long before many other museums began to recognize their value. Today, the Museum’s collection of nearly 350 quilts and counterpanes and over 200 woven coverlets are widely recognized as one of the country’s preeminent collections.
The DAR Museum’s gallery displays eight quilts during its two changing exhibits each year. Quilts are usually chosen to reflect the current exhibit’s theme in some way, as well as to exhibit changing selections from the collection. Quilts are also displayed in a few of the museum's 31 period rooms. Additionally, educational public programs are held about six times a year in which a selection of quilts from storage is brought out for examination in a survey of American quilt history. Quilts are often included in gallery exhibits that focus on any number of historical topics; every few years, an all-quilt or quilt and sampler exhibit may be featured.