Quilt Documentation Projects, 1980-1989: Exploring the Roots of an National Phenomenon


From Uncoverings 2014, Volume 35 of the Research Papers of the American Quilt Study Group


By: Humphrey, Christine E.

Abstract: One of the most notable aspects of the 1980s’ surge of interest in quilt history is the documentation of thousands of quilts by small groups throughout the United States—yet, it has been one of the least talked-about aspects of quilt history. This study examines the phenomenon of quilt documentation projects of the 1980s to gain a better understanding of the social and cultural factors that influenced the organizers and the participants. Organizers in thirty-six states initiated or completed statewide documentation projects by 1989. This study examines five of those statewide projects (the Kentucky Quilt Project, Inc., the Texas Sesquicentennial Quilt Association, the North Carolina Quilt Project, the Nebraska Quilt Project, and the Kansas Quilt Project), utilizing archival materials and local, state, and national media coverage to investigate the goals, objectives, and motivations of the project organizers and the project participants.

Christine Humphrey holds a BA in international studies and history from Texas A & M University and an MA in textile history with a quilt studies emphasis from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. She is currently working toward a doctorate in education and human sciences with a concentration in textiles, merchandising, and fashion design from the University of Nebraska. Her master's thesis explored the quilt documentation projects as a grassroots movement with origins in the cultural movements and quilt revival of the 1970s and 1980s.