Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Presented at Textile Society of America 11th Biennial Symposium: Textiles as Cultural Expressions, September 4-7, 2008, Honolulu, Hawai'i. Copyright © 2008 Mary Worrall, Marsha MacDowell, and Justine Richardson


Investigations into the historical, cultural and sociological roles of quilts have become a focus for scholars across a range of disciplines. Scores of grassroots state and regional quilt documentation projects have focused on documenting quilts’ personal and community contexts, as well as capturing the history of their production, ownership, use, and describing their physical appearance. Enabling both scholars and a broad general audience to access this information is central to furthering the role that these ubiquitous textiles can play in such scholarship. The Quilt Index (www.quiltindex.org) is a comprehensive, digital library that provides access to extensive documentation on quilts and quiltmaking. Contributors from a wide variety of locations provide images and information about their quilts through private, password-protected online management pages. This information, previously accessible only in person, is now centrally available online, making it possible to locate, reference, and search these materials easily. The Quilt Index has become a model project in material culture research. The Quilt Index collections form the seed of what will grow into an extensive network of digital documentation, images, and aggregate information, as well as K-12 curricula materials, online exhibits, and forums for scholarly exchange. Research has indicated that the Index has vast potential for uses that cross the fields of history, anthropology, geography, literary studies, rhetoric, art history, and mathematics. As a national resource, the Index is working to provide the most comprehensive and thorough representation of our country’s quilting heritage to a public that is increasingly interested in this aspect of our cultural heritage.