Historic quilts are among the few types of everyday objects that, by virtue of their artistic qualities, survive to join museum collections as American folk and decorative art. Their allure reaches beyond graphic quality to reveal stories of family, community and work lives. Forty-three artful quilts from the permanent collection of the Eastern Washington State Historical Society echo our collective Northwest experience and reflect generations of quilt traditions used to create objects of beauty and function.
Our special thanks go to co-curator Nancy Rowley for her patience, perseverance, and enthusiasm. For over ten years Nancy has traced the genealogical roots of this quilt collection and is a creative and
intellectual force behind this exhibition.
Volunteers offered exceptional enthusiasm for this project. Once they ascertained the magnitude of readying the collection for exhibit, many women reorganized their personal schedule to ensure that each quilt was carefully considered, treated, and prepared. Their generous donation extends the longevity of the 165-piece quilt collection and reminds us that this collection exists for its community.
The Spokane Chapter of the Washington State Quilters assisted extensively in creating, promoting, and producing the exhibit’s demonstration activities and related programs.
Marsha Rooney, Senior Curator of History
Laura Thayer, Senior Curator of Collections
Hardcopies available in the Museum Store for $2.50.View Catalog
Central Medallion Designs
Artfully composed of small pieces, the central medallion format dominated early 19th century quilt designs. The central star, called Lone Star or Bethlehem Star, was one of the most spectacular and popular patterns. Many fabrics found in period quilts like this one are of English origin, since American industry could not yet supply all of the country's demand for cotton fabrics.View the Quilts
Block Format Quilts
By the second half of the 19th century, American industry was providing colorfully printed fabrics in abundance. Block format quilts became popular, and people with means could purchase enough fabric to make color-themed quilts like this "red and green" rose appliqué example.View the Quilts
By the 1880s machine-manufactured bedding was widely available to average households. Women's magazines helped popularize the fancy quilt art form, encouraging women to create small decorative quilts for the parlor using fancy silk scraps and ribbons. Often commemorative and advertising ribbons were incorporated.View the Quilts
Quilt historians Marie Webster and Ruth Finley sparked a revival of quilt making in the 1920s. During the Great Depression, magazines and newspapers encouraged women to provide handmade bedding using fabric scraps. And in 1976, America's official bicentennial emblem appeared in national women's magazines as a quilt pattern, again renewing interest in quilting as an American folk art form.View the Quilts
“Quiltscapes” was installed in the Davenport Gallery from December 6, 2008 through May 17, 2009.View Gallery