Michigan State University Museum

The Michigan State University Museum has a collection of over 1000 quilts.

490 West Circle Drive East Lansing, Michigan, United States

Museum Website

The Michigan State University Museum, established in 1857, is recognized internationally for its quilt collections and its quilt-related research, exhibition, publication, and education activities. The focus of these activities is on Michigan, African American, Southwest Chinese, South African, Native American quilting as well as the connect of quilts to human rights and social justice and to quilts, health, and wellbeing. The quilt collection numbers more than 1000 and includes historical and contemporary examples from around the world.

Special collections housed at the MSUM include:
African American Quilt Collection
Clarke Family Quilt Collection
Cuesta Benberry Quilt and Ephemera Collection
Deborah Harding Redwork Collection
Detroit News Quilt Club Corner Collection
Durkee-Blakeslee-Quarton-Hoard Family Quilt Collection
International Collection from the Michigan State University Museum
Kitty Clark Cole Quilt Collection
Ladies Art Company
Mary Schafer Quilt and Ephemera Collection
Merry and Albert Silber Collection
North American Indian and Native Hawaiian Quilt Collection
Ralli Quilts
The Women of Color Quilters Network Collection

In the early 1980s, curatorial staff and community members launched the Michigan Quilt Project, to document Michigan's quilting heritage. As of 2020, over 10,000 quilts in Michigan have been documented. In January 2020, the administrative home of the Michigan Quilt Project moved from the MSU Museum to MSU’s Residential College of Arts and Humanities, a college devoted to community-engaged arts and humanities research.

Museum staff partnered with other organizations on quilt-related ethnographic research projects on North American Indian, African-American, South African, Southwest Chinese, and Michigan. These projects have generated collections (scores of tape-recorded interviews with quilters, photographs of quilters and quilting activities, field notes, ephemera, and quilts) and provided the foundation for numerous exhibitions, educational activities, and publications.

Exhibits presented at the MSUM include:
Conscience of the Human Spirit: The Life of Nelson Mandela
Mary Schafer: A Legacy of Quilt History
Patterns of Inquiry
Quilting Sisters: African-American Quiltmaking in Michigan
Quilts and Human Rights
Quilts Old and New: Reproductions from the Great Lakes Quilt Center
Redwork: A Textile Tradition in America

Beginning in the late 1990s, MSU Museum staff were part of the leadership group that developed the Quilt Index and the quilt collections of the MSU Museum and the documented quilts in the Michigan Quilt Project served as beta testing for testing and launching the Quilt Index in 2003. Subsequently, the MSU Museum, the Alliance for American Quilts, and MSU’s Matrix: Center for Digital Humanities and Social Sciences worked closely in the early 2000s. By the late 2000s, Matrix and the MSU Museum were co-leading the Quilt Index. In 2019, the project’s home became Matrix.