THE SEARCH FOR ARIZONA’S QUILTS
Arizona Quilt Documentation Project
- Lenna DeMarco
In the 1986 Arizona took up the ambitious task of identifying and documenting as many pre-1940 quilts in the state as possible. Lead by thirteen dedicated women the Arizona Quilt Project traveled throughout the state to photograph and record the histories of the quilts and quilt makers. By 1992 they had recorded 2,774 quilts, produced a documentary video, “Quilts: Pieces of Time, published a book, “Grand Endeavors: Vintage Arizona Quilts and Their Makers, and sponsored a major exhibition.
Twenty five years and hundreds of quilts later the spark has once again been lit and the Arizona Quilt Project has been reborn as the Arizona Quilt Documentation Project . This time the objective is to document EVERY quilt in Arizona – antique and new. Under the umbrella of the Arizona Quilters Hall of Fame and with initial financial support from the Sharlot Hall Heritage Quilters, antique quilt enthusiasts Jan Hackett, Lynn Miller, Roberta Bowen, Shirley Hobbs and Shirley Weagant to gather groups of volunteers to photograph, document and record Arizona’s quilts. The ultimate goal is to submit the data to the Quilt Index at the Michigan State University as the Arizona Quilt Documentation Project. The Quit Index is a searchable database for scholars, quilters and educators featuring over 50,000 quilts from documentation projects, museums, libraries, and private collections. It is the major resource for quilt scholarship. http://www.quiltindex.org/index.php
Why document quilts? Without a political, social, economic or even artistic voice, women of the past often relied on their needle skills to express themselves. Women’s work has historically been negated and undervalued and all too often there is no record of the woman who made the object. Whether or not the quilt maker is known, close examination of an old quilt can tell much about the maker, her life and her time. Even if her name is lost to history her story lies within. By documenting quilts, not only is the story of the textile preserved for history but so is the quilt maker.
The AQDP has four goals:
- To document all the quilts made in or brought into Arizona regardless of age.
- To establish a documentation project that will be on-going.
- To encourage all quilt makers of the importance of labeling or documenting their own quilts.
- To enter the data and photographs of the quilts into the Quilt Index.
Volunteers in Sierra Vista, Phoenix, Wickenburg, Prescott and Tucson are currently organizing documentation days and volunteer training. Working with museums and quilt guilds several “Quilt Days” are currently scheduled for the Phoenix, Tucson, Prescott and Sierra Vista areas with others planned for the future. The project relies on volunteers and there are many ways to be involved. If you are interested in volunteering e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on the project go to azquilthistory.org. Remember, as Jan Hackett says, “Every quilt has a story” and the Arizona Quilt Documentation Project want to hear yours.