When it became apparent in the early 1990s that keeping the quilts at their home was becoming increasingly impractical, the Jameses began to search for a long-term home for their collection. In 1993, at a quilt conference, they met Dr. Patricia Crews, a textile historian and University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) professor, and Sara Dillow, a quilt collector and philanthropist. Crews and Dillow recognized the potential of acquiring the collection under the umbrella of the UNL system. Four years later, they had convinced the university leadership to not only embrace the collection but to build a program of study as well, something the Jameses enthusiastically endorsed.

In 1997, the Jameses donated approximately 1000 quilts, valued at more than $6 million, to the university. They also pledged $1 million for the creation of the International Quilt Study Center (now the International Quilt Museum). In 2008, with James family and other private and public support, the IQM built a purpose-designed museum facility to store and display the James Collection and its other quilt holdings. And in 2015, the museum was expanded to increase storage and exhibiting space.