Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Textiles as Cultural Expressions: Proceedings of the 11th Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, September 24–27, 2008, Honolulu, Hawaii


Copyright 2008 by the author.


During the last third of the twentieth century, a revival of quiltmaking occurred throughout the world along with a concurrent emergence of quilts as a focus of documentation and study. 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. Millions of individuals began making quilts, an art form that had languished after World War II. By 2006, there were over twenty-seven million active quilters in the United States and quilting had become a $3.3 billion dollar industry.1 Thousands of individuals also became engaged in grass-roots documentation projects that yielded records of data on the technical attributes, social history, and the makers of tens of thousands of quilts. These records, housed in separate private and public collections, were largely inaccessible to users and, in some cases, were in situations that jeopardized their long-term preservation. Emerging information technologies of the late twentieth century offered a new medium to bring together this important but dispersed information into a centrally accessible resource -- the Quilt Index (http://www.quiltindex.org).

The Quilt Index (quiltindex.org), a partnership project of The Alliance for American Quilts (AAQ), MATRIX: The Center for Humane Arts, Letters, and Social Sciences Online (MATRIX) and Michigan State University Museum (MSU Museum), has been developed as a comprehensive, digital library that is beginning to provide access to this extensive documentation on quilts and quiltmaking. Through the Quilt Index it is becoming possible to locate, reference, and search quilt materials easily, creating a significant resource that artists, educators, scholars, and others can use.