New Horizons

The James Collection was already international when it arrived at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1997. In addition to the six countries represented by artists in the contemporary quilt section (Canada, England, France, Germany, Japan, and the United States), quilts from nine countries were included in the antique quilt section (Canada, China, England, France, India, Ireland, Japan, the United States, and Wales). Since then, the international collection has grown exponentially. The original James Collection had fewer than 75 pieces from outside the United States. Today (2024), the IQM international collection numbers over 1,800 objects and includes pieces from over 60 countries, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. The international collection includes some of our oldest pieces—a pair of circa 1600 silk whole cloth quilts either from southern Europe or Goa, India—to some of our newest works—a group of quilts we commissioned from top Japanese quilt artists in 2020. Our aim is to represent as many quilt-related traditions as we can by collecting examples of quilting, piecing, and appliqué from all over the world. These widely sourced items include quilted petticoats from the south of France, appliquéd and pieced Kuba dance skirts from the Democratic Republic of Congo, appliquéd and pieced quilt covers from various southwest Chinese ethnic minority groups, patchwork tent panels from Central Asia as well as appliquéd tent panels from Egypt, boro patchwork from Japan, reverse appliqué mola blouse panels from Panama, and quilted prayer rugs from Turkey and Iran. Every year, the IQM team is inspired anew by Robert James’ goal for the museum of building a “comprehensive collection of quilts from all over the world."

Thanks to its increasingly diverse collection, the IQM was able to produce more than 25 internationally-focused exhibitions in its first 25 years. Some of these exhibitions include: Quilts in Common (2008), Getting to Know You (2015), Quilts of Southwest China (2016), Blue Echoes: Quilts by Shizuko Kuroha (2016), Sacred Scraps: Quilt and Patchwork Traditions of Central Asia (2017), From Kente to Kuba: Stitched Textiles from West and Central Africa (2018), Old World Quilts (2019), Glasnost and Folk Culture: Russian Quilts at the Turn of the 21st Century (2020), Abstract Design in American Quilts at 50: Journey to Japan (2021), and Placemaking: Quilts and the Creation of Special Spaces (2023).