Newspaper pattern from 1889
Fragile scrapbook of newsprint quilt patterns.
Newsprint is among the most ephemeral of paper products, designed to deteriorate.
We quilt historians have long been aware of the anxiety common to collectors of ephemera---that their heirs will not see the value of the material (it is, after all, ephemeral) and compost it.
Few institutions collect 20th century needlework history.
Joyce, Cuesta and me (a l-o-o-ong time ago)
Merikay Waldvogel and I, a generation younger than our late friends Cuesta Benberry and Joyce Gross, have been discussing this since Cuesta and Joyce started worrying thirty years ago. Fortunately their files went to interested institutions. Joyce's papers are at the Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas and Cuesta's at the Great Lakes Quilt Center at Michigan State University.
Now that we ourselves are worrying, Merikay and I have been working with the University of Nebraska/Lincoln, home to the International Quilt Study Center and Museum.
Archives and Special Collections in the University Libraries has established a Quilt Research Collection located in the Library Depository Retrieval Facility, a new building opened last year at the edge of the UNL East Campus. There is a reading room for researchers and a fabulous storage facility that can house 900,000 volumes.
Libraries are following technology developed in commercial warehouses.
Quilt collections material is retrieved with a mechanical picker from the
3-story high shelving.
Quilt article from Wide Awake magazine 1890
One long-term goal is to digitize selected materials from the archives so that items like rare published quilt patterns are accessible on line. Once digitized the original files will remain in Archives & Special Collections where they will continue to be available to readers.
Merikay at her 2009 induction into the Quilters Hall of Fame
Merikay and I are thrilled that our files will have a permanent home at an academic institution, particularly one associated with the world's leading quilt museum, the International Quilt Study Center & Museum.
Another goal is to catalog the quilt collections by hiring a person dedicated to the project. We want to fund a salary for a library staff member who understands quilt history and directs the cataloging and digitization for several years. We have been working with the University of Nebraska Foundation, which now has a special account for donations for that Quilt Research Collection salary.
Mail checks to
University of Nebraska Foundation
1010 Lincoln Mall, Suite 300
Lincoln, NE 68508
In the Memo line and in a note include the information:
Quilt Research Collection Fund #01147420
We'd, of course, like you to donate financially. It's a tax exempt organization and the perfect place for your annual Qualified Charitable Distribution from your IRA. (Don't worry your pretty little heads about that information if you are under 70.)
We also want you to consider donating your own quilt history files. Merikay and I are particularly interested in scrapbooks. But then again, correspondence between quilt historians is a favorite topic.
Newcomb Looms pattern cards
And we'd like to include EVERY QUILT PATTERN EVER PUBLISHED. (Oh wait, I'm getting carried away with my wish list.) Well, you get the picture. Everything ever written about quilts---and they have room for it.
Think about your own quilt history collection large or small and donating it now or in the future. If you'd like more information on the Quilt Research Collection donation guidelines I'd be glad to email a description to you. Contact me at MaterialCult@gmail.com. And if you are interested in making a financial donation I'd be glad to discuss that with you too.