If you’ve visited the online treasure trove known as the Quilt Index (www.quiltindex.org) recently, you may have noticed a new tab on the homepage. It says “Support Us.”
A free resource since its launch in 2003, the Index was created for scholars, educators, quiltmakers, and quilt-lovers worldwide. Now, users and fans of the resource will be key to its future development through their direct support.
The Index has grown rapidly and currently displays more than 50,000 documented quilts from four centuries. The bulk of these quilts are owned by museums with major quilt collections or were discovered during state documentation projects. Whether these quilts went back into an attic or basement, or sit in a storage facility somewhere, the Index allows worldwide access for anyone and everyone to all the quilts’ images and historical records at all times.
This high-tech triumph is run by several organizations in close partnership: Michigan State University Museum; MSU’s MATRIX: The Center For Humane Arts, Letters, and Social Sciences Online; and the Alliance for American Quilts, based in Asheville, North Carolina.
In the early years, the money required to build, maintain, and expand this exemplary database came mostly from grants, particularly from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. These generous funders recognized the importance of such an effort and the vision and discipline with which it was managed. Grants were used over the years not just to add more and more quilts to the archive, but also to create new tech tools for zooming in for up-close examination, comparing many quilts side by side, and expanding search capabilities.
Michigan State University has pledged to continue to provide the server space for the Index so we can all celebrate that what has been built to date is protected. But beyond the start-up and development resources, the Quilt Index must now raise funds to keep advancing the site. An enterprising team at the Quilt Index will continue to apply for grants, however, at the same time, funding is harder than ever to secure.
“Competition for arts and humanities grants is more fierce, and grants do not usually support ongoing project maintenance needs,” notes Mary Worrall, Curator, MSU Museum and one of the members of the Quilt Index Management team. “That is why we need broader support help to sustain the Quilt Index as a vibrant resource that addresses the expanding needs of users and keeps incorporating the newest technologies. Increasingly, prospective funders are also requesting that the Quilt Index team provides evidence that the users of this powerful tool respect and require it enough that they’re willing to help pay for it, much the same way listeners to public radio help keep their favorite programs funded.”
There are many ways that individuals can help the Index grow and flourish, and all funds will be tax-deductible. Any donation, however modest, will help sustain the Quilt Index, and demonstrate the breadth of its support to potential grantmakers.
What’s next? The team has an ambitious vision for the Index that is built on the ongoing evaluation they conduct as well as on their research into new opportunities. This vision pushes the bounds into pioneering, new areas: building a quilts and health research project in tandem with health educators and practitioners; developing math and quilts resources for enhancing teaching and learning; and adding quilts from more than a dozen countries outside the United States to the database. As well as international expansion, the Quilt Index team is committed to inclusion of quilts from all 50 states.
“The Quilt Index has become an amazing resource for artists, educators, scholars, and curators,” explains Marsha MacDowell, MSU professor of art and art history, curator of the MSU Museum, and one of the members of the QI leadership team. “Our vision is to keep it fresh, continually enrich the content, and to engage a wider circle of individuals who see quilts as fundamental to their work and the Index as the place to access quilt information.”
For questions about giving on line or for other ways you can help support the Quilt Index, please go to http://www.quiltindex.org/donate.php or contact Annie James, MSU Museum Development Officer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Quilt made in the Badaling District, outside Beijing China. c1996. Collection of Michigan State University Museum.
Top by: Eugenia Mitchell
Quilted by: Mary Shultz
Golden, Colorado, 1977
Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum
One of the original 101 quilts donated by Eugenia Mitchell of Golden, CO, to start the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum. This quilt is hand pieced from cotton handkerchiefs and solid fabrics in red, green, and white, with red, green, and white borders. The batting is polyester. The binding is the top folded to the back with three mitered corners and one straight corner. The quilt is hand quilted with spider web designs in the hankies and shadow boxes in the solid blocks. The quilting is done at 6 to 7 stitches per inch using white cotton thread. The backing is machine pieced light blue cotton/polyester fabric.