Patterns of Inquiry

Patterns of Inquiry: Quilts in Research and Education
A 2010 study found that there were over 27 million individuals engaged in some aspect of quiltmaking in the United States alone and millions more in countries around the world. In addition, hundreds, if not thousands of museums, cultural heritage centers, universities and higher education institutions, organizations, and businesses in the U.S. and around the world own quilts, display quilts, and use quilt-related programming to interact in traditional and creative ways with their audiences.

Across disciplines, quilts are the basis for a wide range of scientific, scholarly, educational, and artistic investigations and applications. Patterns of Inquiry presents research and educational activities involving Michigan State University Museum’s long-standing interest in and commitment to quilt studies.

Bertha's Wedding Quilt
Lucinda Abshire Ronk
Floyd City, Virginia
Collection of Michigan State University Museum acc.#2007:107.15

Bertha’s Wedding Quilt was made by Lucinda Abshire Ronk for her daughter, Bertha Ronk Martin, as a wedding quilt when she married M.M. Martin in 1888.


Sampler Album
Friends of Annie Risser Horst
Middleton, Pennsylvania
Collection of Michigan State University Museum acc.#2001:158.11

Quilts made by a group of individuals as a present for a friend are often referred to as "Friendship" quilts. When quilts carry the names of individuals, they are referred to as "Album" and/or "Signature" quilts. This "Sampler Album" quilt is believed to have been made as a going away present for Annie Risser Horst, a teacher in Pennsylvania, by her friends and family members.


The Sun Sets on Sunbonnet Sue
Seamsters Union Local #500
Lawrence, Kansas
Collection of Michigan State University Museum acc.#2001:158.1

The Sun Sets on Sunbonnet Sue was made by a group of quilters in Lawrence, Kansas who gave themselves the tongue-in-cheek name "Seamsters Union Local #500." They "gave into their desires to eliminate the 'goody two-shoes' in their pasts" and, with a sense of humor, created twenty blocks, each of which offers a unique way to "do in" Sunbonnet Sue, a popular quilt pattern. Many of the methods of deaths reflect current and popular culture events of the 1970s.

Why Are Quilts Made?
The reasons why quilts are made and how they are used are tremendously varied. Quilts are made and used most often for bed coverings. Quilts are made to commemorate important personal, family, community, and national occasions; as gifts; for bartering and trading; as instruments of social change and education; and as a means of earning a livelihood or supplementing income. The process of quilting has also been important to some individuals as a means of passing the time or as a distraction from negative activities or experiences in their lives. Some quilts are made to express the maker’s personal, creative ideas about color, texture, pattern, shape, and form.

Like most other expressive art forms, there are aspects of quiltmaking that are considered traditional and others that are construed as breaking away from traditions. The physical attributes of what constitutes a quilt, the methods of learning, the reasons for making, the roles of quilts in community, and the determinants of what constitutes a “good” quilt or an “innovative” quilt vary greatly, depending on cultural, social, ethnic, occupational, and aesthetic perspectives.

Lethonee Jones (b.1938)
Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo County, Michigan
Collection of Michigan State University Museum acc.#1996:109.1

As a part of my job on the social work faculty at Western Michigan University I had to travel over a good portion of western Michigan and northern Indiana to visit the various social work agencies where our students were placed to see how their work was going. Dead animals were a familiar sight along the roads. I usually just averted my eyes with a tongue click and a sigh. But in the spring of 1988 I had to go down US 131 to the Indiana Turnpike on the way to South Bend. So many animals were killed that spring that my usual response just wasn't enough. Although there were some larger older animals, so many were young ones. There were some pets, nice big dogs and some cats. The awful waste of life impressed me and I had to speak out in some way. I thought about how the animals were here first. The roads were laid out for human convenience with no regard for the sources of food and water that the original residents depended on. I thought of the arrogance of human beings to put their concerns first. The young, the inexperienced, the unwary were all just smashed up by people in their rush from one place to another. Considering the problems my students were seeing, I wondered if this was a metaphor for the rest of us. Then I began to notice other things; the scraps of tire treads, the design suggested by the curves of the roads and the painted lines, all the roadside signs. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do a quilt on the subject. Getting started was difficult. Because it was spring, the fabric stores had very limited supplies of fur. So I worked on the tire treads. I had to learn about Seminole piecing. Numerous experiments with this technique resulted in the colorful patterns seen on the quilt, imitating the patterns on tires. I had to make choices about the animals included. I chose to show the smaller wild animals. Their deaths sadden but lack the emotional impact of seeing beloved pets killed. I saw the Disney movie "Bambi" when it was first released and so I could never include a deer on my quilt. I collected patterns and fur as the supplies became available. I came to really appreciate the variety of animal eyes available and now have quite a collection. After the animals were finished, the quilter in me could not ignore the scraps of fur and leather left over. I sewed them together and if the resulting piece looked like an animal. I added an eye and included it. If the piece didn't resemble an animal I included it also. All of us have seen those nondescript remains. I also chose to leave off the gory touches that would have made the road kills more realistic. My purpose in this quilt is to make an ecological statement, to ask for respectful concern for our world, to remind all of us of this purpose, although whimsically but to remind the viewer of our fellow creatures, who share the same world.

--Lethonee Jones


Q is for Quilt
Mary Schafer, Gwen Marston, Joe Cunningham
Flushing, Genesee County, Michigan
Collection of Michigan State University Museum acc.#6714.1

Q is for Quilt is the result of a children’s book written by Gwen Marston rendering the alphabet through quilt patterns. Mary Schafer created the blocks in this quilt from traditional patterns with the exception of her original Cherry Wreath. Her collaborators, Gwen Marston and Joe Cunningham, set the blocks together and quilted the piece.

The Development of Quilt Studies: Feminism, Patriotism, Ethnic Studies and Object-Based Inquiries
Scholars first began at the turn of the 20th century to seriously research historical and contemporary dimensions of quiltmaking The rise of the feminist art movement in the 1960s and a heightened national interest in American history spawned by the nation’s bicentennial celebration in 1976 paved the way for a burst of interest in historical and contemporary American traditions, women’s artistic contributions, crafts in general and quiltmaking in particular. The simultaneous growth of ethnic studies, women’s studies, material culture studies, and a growing interest in interdisciplinary pursuits meant that scholars began to integrate quilt studies more fully into a broad range of humanities fields. As scholars turned their attention to “new voices,” and increasingly incorporated gender, ethnicity, and class into their work, they found that quilts provided important material for research and information about families, labor, and communities that did not exist through other oral, written, or more traditional archival records.

Afro-American Women and Quilts
Cuesta Benberry, Annette Ammen, Lois Mueller and the Kinloch Community Center Ladies
St. Louis, Missouri
Collection of Michigan State University Museum acc.#2008:119.1

Afro-American Women and Quilts is the only quilt that Cuesta Benberry made. In every block of this sampler quilt, Cuesta uses a visual symbol to pay tribute to quilts made by different African-American quiltmakers.


Oklahoma WPA Quilt
WPA Quilters Group
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Collection of Michigan State University Museum acc.#2011:140.1

The Works Progress Administration (WPA) was a relief measure established in 1935 that offered work on an unprecedented scale through a wide variety of programs. In July 1935, the WPA created the Division of Women’s and Professional Projects to develop and administer projects hiring women. This included handicraft projects that produced quilts and other textiles. The Oklahoma WPA Quilt is a “Sampler” quilt signed by crews in central Oklahoma.


Signature Redwork
Members of the Methodist Episcopal Church
Ishpeming, Michigan
Collection of Michigan State University Museum acc.#2006:128.1

The Signature Redwork quilt includes the names of more than 400 church members who contributed money to the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Ishpeming, Michigan. The names are placed around a center block commemorating the congregation’s newly built church building.

The Methodist Episcopal Society of Ishpeming, Michigan held their services in a schoolhouse from 1867 until their first church was built in 1869. A foundation for a new church was laid in 1891 on North Third Street, but economic conditions and labor problems halted the project, and instead Ishpeming Greenhouses was eventually constructed on the foundation. Later, a new church was built on the site of the original church at Division and Second streets. The new church was completed in 1903 and was known as the First Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1955, the church was renamed Wesley Methodist Church following a merger with another congregation. The church building depicted on the quilt was razed in 1972 following a fire. Wesley Methodist Church can currently be found on Hemlock Street in Ishpeming.


Basketball Star Quilt
Rae Jean Walking Eagle
Brockton, Montana
Collection of Michigan State University Museum acc.#1996:75.1

At high school basketball tournaments in Montana that include teams from Indian reservations, there is usually a quilt honoring ceremony. Team members present quilts made by their parents and community members to individuals, including opposing team members, in honor of their positive and supportive actions during the basketball season. The quilts made for these ceremonies are commonly done in variations of the star pattern and often incorporate a pieced or appliquéd basketball.

The Quilt Index
The Quilt Index ( is an online tool for centralized public access to public and private collections of quilts and quilt-related materials. It is a project of Michigan State University Museum, MSU’s MATRIX, and the Alliance for American Quilts. The research and development of the Quilt Index has been supported by major grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Services with additional support from many individuals and organizations around the world.

Having free online searchable access to tens of thousands of thematic material culture items from physically distributed collections offers extraordinary new opportunities for educators and learners from many different disciplines. The Index also provides a platform for innovative research by individuals who previously were unaware of the potential for diverse inquiries that quilts and the digital repository offers.

Quilt Index QR Code Quilt
Beth Donaldson
Lansing, Ingham County, Michigan
Collection of Michigan State University Museum acc.#TC2012:1

This quilt is a working QR code. Take a moment to view the Quilt Index.

The Quilt Index and the Digging Into Data Project
How do you research a million quilts?  The Digging Into Data Project is making use of new digital methods for visual searching and pattern recognition to find ways for researchers to more easily use vast amounts of quilt data for research purposes. The Quilt Index's enormous bed of systematic textual and visual data provides a test bed for development of algorithms to isolate salient characteristics (such as color, or line/pattern shapes) to sort through massive numbers of image objects—in this case, quilts—to be able to investigate important scientific and humanistic questions.

The Digging Into Data Project is a collaboration of the MSU Museum (, MSU’s MATRIX (, Image Spatial Data Analysis Group (, Institute for Computing in Humanities, Arts, and Social Science (, National Center for Supercomputing Applications (, University of Illinois Libraries (, and Humanities Research Institute (

Crazy Quilt
Roe G. Van Deusen (designer and Lois Van Deusen Darcus (quiltmaker)
Designed 1885-1887, pieced and finished 1887
City, County, Michigan
Collection of Michigan State University Museum acc.#6782.1

The work done for Digging Into Data aims to classify certain categories of quilts to answer questions about authorship and enhance the metadata collected about the quilts. In the project’s initial phase, algorithms have been developed to classify quilts into two specific categories, “Crazy Quilts” and “Indigo Quilts,” and high performance computing has been utilized for processing power.


Bursting Star and Block
Mary Elizabeth Beardslee Durkee
Birmingham, Oakland County, Michigan
Collection of Michigan State University Museum acc.#2000:54.2

The work done for Digging Into Data aims to classify certain categories of quilts to answer questions about authorship and enhance the metadata collected about the quilts. In the project’s initial phase, algorithms have been developed to classify quilts into two specific categories, “Crazy Quilts” and “Indigo Quilts,” and high performance computing has been utilized for processing power.

Quilts and Education
As part of learning to make quilts, whether at home or in classes or on their own, artists inevitably also learn about mathematics (i.e. measuring and calculating needed fabric or in figuring the layout of pattern designs); family history (i.e. through hearing stories about who had worn which recycled fabrics, whose names were embroidered on blocks, or whose pattern was being used); aesthetics (i.e. what colors were thought to look best together or how many stitches per inch were deemed necessary for quality); chemistry (i.e. which fabrics or dyes would hold up or what should be used to clean finished textiles); and values (i.e. the need within some religious, family, or community groups to make quilts to support causes or the needy), and much more.  The Quilt Index’s Wiki has a number of resources to assist educators and learners in using the Index in their teaching and research activities.

Ingubo Entle (A Beautiful Blanket)
Jo Crockett and Nomawethu Bebeza
Langa Township, Cape Town, South Africa
Collection of Michigan State University Museum acc.#2008:161.1

Fabric artist Jo Crockett teaches quiltmaking and other sewing skills in Langa Township, Cape Town. She works with her students on economic development projects utilizing their skills in textile work. Ingubo Entle was created with her student Nomawethu Bebeza.


Makarapa Quilt
Intuthuko Project
Etwatwa, South Africa
Collection of Michigan State University Museum acc.#2011:106.4

This textile of embroidered squares was made by women of the Intuthuko Project, a women's upliftment project, of Etwatwa, South Africa. Each of the panels depicts a different makarapa, the plastic helmet that is worn in support of soccer teams. This piece was made to celebrate South Africa's hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Soccer Tournament.


Unknown maker
Qiubei County, Wenshan Zhuang and Miao Autonomous Prefecture, Yunnan Province, China
Collection of Michigan State University Museum acc.#2011:136.2

This textile, woven of hemp and fireweed, was made by a Bai-Yi artist; over 20,000 of this indigenous ethnic minority reside near the border of Sichuan and Yunnan provinces. This type of pieced textile is used as a blanket to sit on or as a covering to keep a person warm at night.

Quilts and Curriculum
 Using quilts as learning tools in new ways has become a part of K-university curricula. Several books have been printed on quiltmaking for youth but the first major publication that has expansively tied quilts to curriculum was Quilting Circles, Learning Communities developed by historians, folklorists, K-12 teachers, and artists who participated in the 2004 and 2005 Arts, Curriculum and Community conferences by the Wisconsin Arts Board and the University of Wisconsin’s Office of Education Outreach. To answer the question “why should students study quilts at all?” conference organizers Anne Pryor and Nancy B. Blake respond, “…[L]earning to see everyday objects with informed eyes is a gateway to creative thinking. Working within a familiar form is an effective way to reach at-risk children and to challenge high-achievers to apply new insights.” At least one of the book’s lesson plans was based on the Quilt Index.

Mariner's Compass
Maker unknown
Provenance unknown
Collection of Michigan State University Museum acc.#2001:158.2

The design of this quilt, a circular star with radiating points, is similar to that of compasses used by mariners, hence the name. Also known as "Sunburst" or "Sunflower," the design has long been used in patchwork; an English example dates to 1726 and American versions to ca. 1830. Quiltmakers utilize mathematical skills in the drafting of traditional patterns, such as the “Mariner’s Compass,” to ensure successful results.


Liberty Tree
Mrs. S. K. Daniel
Provenance unknown
Collection of Michigan State University Museum acc.#2001:158.5

In this signed, dated, and embroidered "Pine Tree" quilt, Mrs. Daniels commemorates Civil War generals and battles as well as postwar elected officials, including U.S. President McKinley and his first vice-president, Hobart. She also embroidered patriotic phrases on the quilt. The quilt's patriotic theme is further carried out through the use of red and blue fabrics pieced to form the leaf sections of the trees, which are set against a white background fabric.

Like other women who have used their quilts to express political interests or opinions about politics or social issues, Mrs. Daniels expressed her support of the late nineteenth-century temperance movement in the United States by including the phrase "abstain from strong drink."


Log Cabin or Barn Raising
Maker unknown
Provenance unknown
Collection of Michigan State University Museum acc.#2007:107.11

Sometimes a quilt or a quilt pattern, such as the “Log Cabin” pattern, has a great story attached to it that captivates our imagination. How do we know if these stories are true? In “Authentic Stories,” Marsha MacDowell and Bobbie Malone explore how to evaluate stories that claim to be historical fact.


Delectable Mountains
Susannah Harrison
York Mills, Ontario, Canada
Collection of Michigan State University Museum acc.#2003:55.1

Susannah Brooks Harrison was born on January 30, 1828 and died on March 14, 1898. She married William Ashford Harrison on December 20, 1848. She had seven children: Mary (ca.1849-1893), George (1851-1853), Caroline (1854-1859), Sarah (1856-1923), Elizabeth (1858-1864), Edith (ca. 1862-1937), and Clara (1866-1950).

Family quilting lore tells of Harrison’s sister-in-law visiting to help quilt. However, Harrison apparently did not find her sister-in-law’s workmanship up to her standards. After her sister-in-law would leave, Harrison would rip her relative’s stitches out of the quilt.

Quilts and Math
Patchwork and appliqué quilts can be designed to illustrate a variety of mathematical concepts, such the Pythagorean Theorem, Fibonacci triangles and sequences, Sierpinski triangles, spirals, fractals, golden ratio, and tessellations. Using such quilts, as visual aids and as art projects, in the classroom provides a concrete context by which to understand abstract concepts, build connections in students’ minds across disciplines, and encourage creative mathematical thinking. The Quilt Index team has begun developing a research interest group that plans to create tools for using the Index to more effectively teach math concepts, especially to students who can resonate with this art form familiar to them through home and community.

Grandmother's Flower Garden
Bozena Vilhelmina Clarke
Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan
Collection of Michigan State University Museum acc.#6119.18

Tessellations, or patterns of one or more polygons that completely cover a surface without any open space or overlapping, are often found in quilts. Shapes such as squares, equilateral triangles, and hexagons are some of the shapes most commonly used by quilters in tessellation patterns.


Sawtooth Star
Mrs. Jacob Sauder
Churchtown, Pennsylvania
Collection of Michigan State University Museum acc.#2001:158.7

Mrs. Jacob Sauder was described to collector Kitty Clark Cole as an "Old Order Mennonite" who made all of her quilts entirely by hand. It is believed that this piece was made by Mrs. Sauder prior to her marriage. Mrs. Sauder passed the quilt to her only daughter, who in turn, gave it to her daughter.


Ducks in the Pond or Duck Walk
Mary Elizabeth Beardslee Durkee and Martha L. Durkee Blakeslee
Birmingham, Oakland County, Michigan
Collection of Michigan State University Museum acc.#1999:12.6

The Durkee-Blakeslee-Quarton-Hoard Collection consists of quilts representing four generations of women from Oakland County, Michigan. Concern that family pets might damage a collection of pristine family quilts prompted Betty Quarton Hoard to donate seventeen quilts made by her grandmother, Martha L. Durkee Blakeslee, great-grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Beardslee Durkee, and mother, Emma Blakeslee Quarton, to the MSU Museum. Following Betty's death in 2005, her family donated an additional three quilts.

Oakland County, Michigan has been home to members of the family since 1823 when Betty's forebear Wilkes Durkee moved from Cayuga County, New York to the town of Franklin. Betty's grandfather, Frank Blakeslee, owned a dry goods store in Birmingham. Ownership of the store undoubtedly contributed to the eclectic variety of fabric found throughout the family's quilts.

Cyberlearning and the Quilt Index
The Quilt Index has developed a new partnership with the Teacher Education program at the MSU College of Education and with computer science researchers from the University of Minnesota-Morris who work with computer applications for teaching mathematical thinking with quilt geometry. A proposal has been developed that will conduct extensible research on using large cultural heritage databases for inquiry based learning, using the Quilt Index as the test bed and constructing a distinct learning environment. The learning environments will include an online tool for organizing upper elementary and middle school students’ process and the project will include two test streams—one on developing historical thinking using primary resources and another on developing mathematical thinking using lenses to explore the mathematical properties for a quilt and learn how to understand symmetry.

Quilts and Social Justice
Textiles have long been used, mainly by women, as a medium to express feelings, values, and experiences that reflect upon and motivate action related to issues and needs in contemporary society. Studies of women’s activities in the nineteenth century in the U.S. clearly document extensive engagement in social reform movements, including using needle skills to raise conscience about injustices or issues that they felt needed to be addressed. When other avenues to engage in support for these causes were denied women, making quilts proved an effective tool to demonstrate their convictions and to channel skills and energies that would make a difference in the causes they believed in.

Textile artists continue to use their skills to express issues related to social justice. In some cases, textiles have been produced by individual makers who, working alone, simply wish to make a statement; others have been produced by women working in organized efforts to subversively or overtly protest against human rights abuses or to record the histories and memories of individuals whose stories traditionally are overlooked and under-recorded.

Lazy Man
Ruth Clement Bond (designer) and Rose Marie Thomas (quiltmaker)
Wheeler Dam, Alabama
Collection of Michigan State University Museum acc.#2011:147.1

Ruth Clement Bond - human rights activist, educator, diplomat, and art quilt designer - was part of an extraordinary family whose members, despite the racial prejudice and challenges to opportunities facing African Americans in the 20th century, successfully completed higher education graduate degrees, served in many significant educational and diplomatic posts, and worked in leadership roles on behalf of African and African-American peoples.

After completing a bachelor's degree and a MA in English from Northwestern University, Ruth married J. Max Bond. Ruth and Max moved to California where Max completed a Ph.D. in sociology and Ruth began a doctorate in English. In 1934, they moved to northern Alabama where Max was employed as an administrator by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and where he and Ruth advocated for better conditions for the workers and their families.

This quilt incorporates a black TVA worker who is in the throes of choosing between the easygoing life he knew before his TVA job, represented by the woman on the right and the musical instrument, and the government TVA job, represented by the hand of the official government. To Ruth Bond, the meaning of this quilt was always obvious: "He chose the TVA job. It has a hopeful message. Things were getting better, and the black worker had a part in it.” Rose Marie Thomas who did the piecing and quilting, later said that, "The quilt represents us, I mean the black race, the opportunity the black race had through this government to raise themselves up, not to be a frivolous set of people and to have higher ideals and try to accomplish them in various ways."


Sherry Shine
East Orange, New Jersey
Collection of Michigan State University Museum acc.#2011:108.1

Rosa Parks and President Barack Obama are two iconic figures who changed the face of history with the understanding that greatness is never given--it must be earned. Each of these icons stands for the "journey of hope" in all of us and is connected through the many challenges we have faced. Their persistence, courage, and optimism have proved that progress continues to be made and we all have an obligation to stand up for what we believe in.

-- Sherry Shine


Baron Samedi Visits His New Orleans
Diana N'Diaye
Washington D.C.
Collection of Michigan State University Museum acc.#2010:115.1

I began this quilt as an artist in residence at Michigan State University. It was inspiring to work right in the gallery surrounded by the powerful quilts assembled for the exhibition celebrating the Declaration of Human Rights. I was honored that the University chose to acquire the finished work. I thank Pat Turner, UC Davis, for including the piece in progress in a presentation at the American Folklore Society on “Katrina quilts” and Marsha MacDowell for showing interest and patience as I completed it.

The boat and the water have been both the sites of despair and death and means of escape and hope economic and physical lifelines for Haitians and the people of African descent in New Orleans. Baron Samedi in the sacred traditions of Haiti- and in New Orleans, is both guardian of the cemetery and the lwa of procreation/fertility/virility. He combines both the origins of life and the decay of the body. He inspires acts of conception and leads souls to the afterlife.

The inner border alludes to the oil spills that represents new water related difficulties that impact the lives, peoples and cultures of the region. I always saw the image of the crowded ships that brought Africans across the Middle Passage to these shores and the Caribbean as powerful but as I sewed the images to the quilt marking the stitches with attention to the number of human beings whose bodies lay side by side, I suddenly had a visceral sense of what it must have been like to be on that ship. The boats that bring Haitians on the risky journey to the US borders (as depicted in the quilt) are equally as crowded as were some of the boats attempting to rescue Katrina survivors. It was tempting to include images from and allusions to the recent earthquake, but chose to deal with water related issues only in this piece.

I wanted the quilt, though depicting devastation to be beautiful even in the depiction of tragedy, in homage to the people of both Haiti and New Orleans who continue with so much tragedy with spirit and creativity.

-- Diana N'Diaye


Bel Peyizan Lakay (Beautiful Peasant Household)
Denise Estava
Cornillon-Grand Bois, Haiti
Collection of Michigan State University Museum acc.#2010:137.1

Artist Denise Estava is a member of a PeaceQuilts cooperative. PeaceQuilts is a non-profit, humanitarian organization relieving poverty in Haiti by establishing and supporting independent women’s quilting cooperatives. Their goal is to nurture the cooperatives until they are self-directed and self-sustaining.


Ruby Bridges
Marion Coleman
Castro Valley, California
Collection of Michigan State University Museum acc.#2012:107.1

In 1960, when Ruby Nell Bridges Hall was six years old, her parents responded to a call from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and volunteered her to participate in the integration of the New Orleans School system. She is known as the first African American child to attend an all-white elementary school in the South. Ruby Bridges still lives in New Orleans, now heads the Ruby Bridges Foundation, and is a regular guest speaker regarding her own story and the racial divide at universities, corporations, and civic groups.


Carolyn Crump
Houston, Texas
Collection of Michigan State University Museum acc.#2012:106.1

In creating this tribute to Nelson Mandela, I wanted to symbolize each hardship on his path, as well as his inspiring triumphs. He stands with his back to the viewer, his actual prisoner number across his shoulders above the slogans he fought for and refused to give up in 1963. In his hands, clasped behind his back, are the old and new South African flags. At the lowest center edge of the quilt are 27 stones, representing each year he was incarcerated for fighting for equality. Move up the left side, and you see him at hard labor, as the African National Congress flag flies behind him– emblem of the party he would lead. Nelson Mandela stares out the prison bars, seeing his own past and future: his fist held out the window on the prison bus; the armed prison guard who actually became his friend through years of incarceration; his own, older face as President; and finally, Nelson Mandela casting a vote which is the inalienable right his courage won for all South Africans. His Nobel Peace Prize on the right speaks volumes in five words – A Long Walk to Freedom.

-- Carolyn Crump


The Bus Ride That Paved the Way
Carolyn Crump
Houston, Texas
Collection of Michigan State University Museum acc.#2012:106.2

On December 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Park sat down in an empty seat in the front of the bus, resting her tired feet. In that catalytic moment in the struggle for justice for all of us, did she pray for strength from past trailblazers or envision a future president she would not live to meet? Rosa’s words anchor the lower right hand side of the quilt. As she rides deep in thought, a slave quilt hangs in the window behind her. African American leaders from Harriet Tubman and Thurgood Marshall to Michelle and Barack Obama bow their heads in honor of her ride. In her autobiography, Rosa Park denies that she was tired on the fateful day. She wrote that she was “ just tired of giving in,” and that someone had to take the first step in the struggle for justice for all Americans. Rosa Park died in 2005, three years before Barack Obama was elected president of the United States.

-- Carolyn Crump

Quilts and Health
Name a disease or illness and you will find at least one quilt related to this disease that has been made in support of personal well-being, health education, patient advocacy, memorialization of victims, and/or fundraising. For some diseases you will find not just one quilt but literally thousands as in the case of the NAMES AIDS Memorial Quilt Project. Collectively, the number of quilts made and used by individuals, their caregivers and advocates, and by health professionals around the world is in the tens of thousands. The number of quilts is staggering. A multi-disciplinary cluster of individuals representing the Great Lakes Quilt Center/Michigan State University Museum, the MSU College of Human Medicine, and other university partners have begun to examine the intersection of quilts and quiltmaking and health.

Charlie Wood's Stoma Quilt
Margaret Wood
Phoenix, Arizona

Artist Margaret Wood has worked closely with the Michigan State University Museum on several projects, including the research and exhibition project To Honor and Comfort, a collaboration of the MSU Museum and the National Museum of the American Indian. In a 1996 interview for that project, Margaret spoke about this quilt she had made nearly two years after the extended period of time during which she was the primary caregiver for her father who had throat cancer.

In the center is a white plastic mesh face, which is the actual radiation mask my father used for six weeks. The X’s on the quilt represent the X’s marked by radiologists on my father’s face and chest to pinpoint where radiation treatment was to be directed. I put in Seminole patchwork because my father is Seminole and blue colors since his favorite color was blue. The red and white borders represent the cigarettes that caused the cancer, and the appliquéd [tracings of] hands symbolize some of the people, especially family, that helped him on his healing journey.


LeMoyne Star
Rebecca Brickley
Ionia, Michigan
Collection of Michigan State University Museum acc.#7245.1

Donor William Brickley provided the following information about Rebecca Brickley, who was born in Pennsylvania on May 3, 1820:

This quilt was made by my great-grandmother Rebecca Brickley, wife of Jacob Brickley, who died of cancer of the breast October 18, 1866 at the age of 46 years, 6 months and 15 days. In 1865 my great-grandmother discovered that she had cancer of the breast. She told the family, you all want to go to Michigan, so we will go this year so I won’t be left behind. In the fall of 1865, they had harvested the crops and sold the farm in Niagara County, New York. Then they started for Michigan with their possessions in wagons and with cows tied behind the wagons. They left Lockport, New York, in the late fall and travelled all winter to reach Ionia, Michigan in the spring of 1866. Great-grandmother made the quilt for my grandfather while she was dying. Grandfather was very choice with this quilt and refused to have it used. His daughter and then I have respected his wishes, and the quilt has not been used. That is why it is 120 years old and in original condition.


Linda J. Huff
Algonquin, Illinois
Collection of Michigan State University Museum acc.#2011:141.1

Nevilyn was born June 14, 1915, and she is my grandmother. She learned to sew because as a child she had rheumatic fever and was never allowed to do anything strenuous. In January of 1936 she married Jerry and they started their family. Mostly they worked and lived their lives, struggling through the tough times and rejoicing in the good times. When it was time to retire, Grandpa hooked up a travel trailer to his truck and told Grandma they were going to visit all the places they had always wanted to see. If they did those things now, he insisted, when they got too old to travel at least they would have the memories of all that they had seen and done. In 1999 Grandpa died. Then Grandma was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The woman sits in the nursing home today has no memories of friends or family or the special things that she and her husband did especially for this time in her life. Nevilyn was once lively and vibrant. In the end only a ghost of her former self remains. There are 868 small squares in the border. They speak of so many things in my grandmother’s life: the fabric that she worked with to make clothes and quilts, her attention to small details, her desire that things be done the “right” way, and her love of color. They also symbolize all of her memories, funny stories, sad times, the trips she took, and all the things she has done. All the little pieces of her life are now lost to her forever.

-- Linda J. Huff


Elsie M. Campbell
Dodge City, Kansas
Collection of Michigan State University Museum acc.#2011:142.2

Alzheimer’s is confusion. Commonplace things become mysterious, their identity and purpose impossible to discern. With confusion often comes loneliness and isolation. The Lone Star parallels the progression of Alzheimer’s. In the early stage (top), only one or two pieces are confused. A question mark and its mirrored image form a heart. As the disease progresses (middle), pieces are mixed up, left out, and transposed. Things don’t quite make sense anymore. Patches become misshapen and distorted. In the final stages (bottom), even the central purple diamonds, one’s deepest memories, become distorted and go missing. Finally memories fade and become nearly unrecognizable. Patches appear to lie in a pile on a table.

-- Elsie M. Campbell


Losing My Mind One Piece At A Time
Janet Caldwell
Avondale, Pennsylvania
Collection of Michigan State University Museum acc.#2011:141.3

Artist statement: My quilt symbolizes my mother’s coming battle with Alzheimer’s. She realizes her mind is going, and she has a great sadness, shown by the weeping eyes. The top two rows of the quilt are 30’s reproduction fabrics, and the circles are feedsack fabric. These fabrics represent my mother’s bright and happy childhood. As the blocks continue downwards, blank patches show the memory loss, and finally the falling apart of the mind altogether.

-- Janet Caldwell


Once A Shining Star
Helen Marshall
Waikanae, New Zealand
Collection of Michigan State University Museum acc.#2011:141.1

My mother had Alzheimer’s. She was the first woman accountancy graduate at Canterbury University in New Zealand, and although she did not practice after my brother and I were born, she was always involved in community fund-raising and served on committees of national charity organizations. She was very intelligent, a great bridge player, and had a wide circle of interesting friends. The onset of her Alzheimer’s saddened me so very much. It took so much away from her. I used an old traditional block called Memory Star, very appropriate, I think. I drafted a ring of forget-me-not flowers (the symbol of Alzheimer’s here in New Zealand) onto the block. The rest of the block is shaded from bright to dull as a reminder of the downhill effect this disease has on people. The quilting has a section of meandering pattern, one of the symptoms of the mind and body when this disease takes over, and there are some forget-me-not beads scattered over the quilt to emphasis the “not knowing where they are” that effects patients. I found making this quilt very emotional for me.

-- Helen Marshall


Research Now...There's Still Time
Nancy Brenan Daniel
Prescott, Arizona
Collection of Michigan State University Museum acc.#2011:141.5

I am a lucky daughter. In my mother’s 90th and 91st years, we had a lot of time to visit and talk of many things - mostly family things, and funny things, and our lives together. We were very lucky to have had that time, and for Mom to be fully rational. Sometime after her 90th birthday party, she phoned me with an urgent request to visit. She was worried about something. She wanted to talk right away. I settled in for a bombshell. “I’ve misplaced my stamps. I haven’t been able to find them all day,” she said. “Do you think I have ‘Early Onset Dementia?” She was totally serious. She no sooner said the words than she remembered where she had hidden the stamps. “Mom,” I said, “At your age, I don’t think anything could be called ‘Early Onset!’” Five seconds passed before the two of us broke into uncontrolled, tear-producing laughter. We were the lucky ones. We had each other, totally, until the day she crossed over the Rainbow Bridge to be with Dad and her lifelong collection of dogs and friends who were there waiting for her. This quilt is dedicated to research - and those who do the research. I hope that soon all daughters and sons, grandchildren and spouses will have their loved ones totally present until it is there time to leave this earth.

-- Nancy Brenan Daniel

The Alzheimer’s Art Quilt Initiative
The Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative (AAQI) is a national, grassroots charity whose mission is to raise awareness and fund research. The AAQI auctions and sells donated quilts and sponsors a national touring exhibit of quilts about Alzheimer's. The AAQI has raised more than $713,000 since January 2006.

Ami Simms of Flint, Michigan is the founder and executive director of the AAQI. She is a quilter. Her mother had Alzheimer's.

Exhibition Credits
Patterns of Inquiry was presented at the Michigan State University Museum from June 3 - September 23, 2012.

 Exhibit Curator: Mary Worrall
 Curatorial Consultant: Marsha MacDowell
 Graphic Designer: Smita Sawai
 Collections Management: Lynne Swanson and Beth Donaldson
 Object and Installation Photography: Pearl Yee Wong
 Installation: Juan Alvarez
 Installation Team: Meredith Brown, Elleda Groeneveld, Katie Nowinski, Amanda Rzotkiewicz, and  Stephanie Wottreng
 Educational Activities: Mary Worrall and Stephanie Wottreng
 Marketing and Communications: Lora Helou and Stephanie Palagyi
 Administrative Services: Jilda Keck and Sue Schmidtman
 Information Technology: Sunny Wang
 Facilities Management: Mike Secord
 MSU Museum Director: Gary Morgan
Special thanks to Clare Luz, Justine Richardson, Dean Rehberger, and Amanda Sikarskie.
This exhibition was supported by a Creating Inclusive Excellence grant from the MSU Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives and by the College of Human Medicine. Portions of the exhibition were based on research on the Quilt Index that was supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Digging Into Data Challenge sponsored by the Joint Information Systems Committee, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Science Foundation, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

Patterns of Inquiry was presented at the MSU Museum in 2012.

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