Methodolgy and Meaning: Strategies for Quilt Study


From The Quilt Journal - An International Review, Vol. 2, No. 1.


By: Keller, Patricia J.

Editor Notes: As quilt scholars expand their understanding of the field, identifying mythologies surrounding quilts and quilt making and scrutinizing methods now applied to quilt study, they will increasingly seek information and methodologies developed within other areas of humanistic research. Additionally, the richness of quilts as a source of cultural information will continue to draw scholars from related academic disciplines to quilt research, and they will bring methodologies now little-employed in quilt study with them. One well-suited to this study,and certain to be more applied, is the interdisciplinary approach of material culture studies, which employs analytical models drawn from a variety of academic perspectives to gain insight into the products of human workmanship. In this article Patricia Keller, a material culture scholar, discusses such an approach and its implications for the field. This methodology was employed in the development of The Lancaster Quilt Harvest, a regional Pennsylvania quilt documentation project directed by Ms. Keller and sponsored by the Heritage Center Museum of Lancaster County. In an upcoming issue of The Quilt Journal she will discuss the application of this theoretical model to the Lancaster project, and its preliminary results.

Author Notes: Patricia Keller received her material culture training in the Winterthur Program in Early American Culture. Through that program she received an M. A. in 1984 from the University of Delaware. Her research has been particularly directed toward Pennsylvania German material culture with special emphasis on paint-decorated furniture and quilted textiles, and she has written and lectured frequently on these and other decorative arts topics. As Director/Curator of The Heritage Center of Lancaster County from 1984-1993, she organized numerous original exhibitions interpreting regional decorative arts. She served as director of The Lancaster County Quilt Harvest, a regional quilt documentation project sponsored by the Heritage Center, and continues as a volunteer curatorial research associate for that project. Currently an independent scholar, Patricia has received an E. Lyman Stewart Fellowship and will begin doctoral studies in American Civilization within the History Department of the University of Delaware in the fall of 1993.