Illinois State Museum

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The Illinois State Museum has been collecting quilts since the 1950s as part of the Decorative Arts collection, with the focus on quilts made or connected to Illinois. The current collection, numbering over 300 quilts, reflects trends in quiltmaking over 175 years and the artistry and craftsmanship of Illinois quiltmakers. Through the generous donations of family members, nineteenth century women are memorialized by their wholecloth, pieced, applique, crazy and log cabin quilts in the Museum's collection. Recently, the Museum has been actively collecting twentieth century quilts - including the nationally known work of:

  • Bertha Stenge
  • Albert Small
  • Caryl Bryer Fallert
  • M. Joan Lintault

Over 150 Illinois Amish quilts have recently been added to the collection.

The Quilt Exhibition Program at the Illinois State Museum is very active. Current and upcoming exhibits are listed on the Museum's web site: www.museum.state.il.us . The Illinois Amish Quilt exhibit has traveled to four of the Museum's art galleries from 2000 to 2003 and will now be available for bookings nationally. Past quilt exhibits have included:

  • "Connecting Stitches" (celebrating the Illinois Quilt Research Project)
  • "Patchwork Souvenirs of the 1933 World's Fair" (curated by Merikay Waldvogel)
  • Illinois Quilts
  • "A Cut and Stitch Above: The Quilts of Bertha Stenge" (curated by Merikay Waldvogel and Janice Tauer Wass)
  • "Spectrum: The Textile Art of Caryl Bryer Fallert"
  • "Illinois Quilts"
  • "Illinois Crossroads"
  • "Evidence of Paradise: The Quilts of M. Joan Lintault"
  • "Illinois Amish Quilts: Sharing Thread of Tradition"
  • "Gifted Quilts"

This Quilt Index Pilot Partnership has tested the feasibility of adding museum quilt collections and quilts registered with the Illinois Quilt Research Project to this national database. For the Quilt Index, all the quilts in the Museum's collection were analyzed using the IQRP technical analysis forms. In many cases microscopic analysis was used to determine batting and fabric fibers. The background information offered by families of donors was checked against historical records. The historical information and technical descriptions were compared with current quilt history scholarship to more accurately date these quilts and confirm the identity of their makers. Quilts were photographed, slides and prints were converted to digital images (including many quilt details), and color corrections were made as needed. The collected data and digital images were then added to the online database, served through Michigan State University. As new quilts are added to the Illinois State Museum collection and new information becomes available, the Quilt Index will continue to be updated.

The Illinois Quilt Research Project has registered over 17,000 quilts, starting in 1986 and continuing today. The IQRP is a joint project of the Land of Lincoln Quilters Association and the Early American Museum and is guided by Project Director Cheryl Kennedy. The Project's book, History from the Heart: Quilt Paths Across Illinois was written by E. Duane Elbert and Rachel Kamm Elbert in 1993. The Illinois State Museum hosted a quilt registration day for the Springfield area and organized and traveled an exhibit celebrating the IQRP, "Connecting Stitches: Tradition and Innovation in Illinois Quilts."

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