Because they understood the importance of documentation, Ardis and Robert James recorded every detail they could gather about each quilt they acquired. Ardis wrote in a letter to an individual offering a quilt, “If it is convenient for you, we would appreciate some written history … we maintain a file on each important quilt that we own, knowing how valuable this information will be to future generations.” They hired a part-time curator to help with photographing, accessioning, and organizing the collection, and sought out specific and significant quilts to fill gaps in the collection. They encouraged quilt lovers and scholars to visit and to use the collection in research projects and exhibitions.

Once the Jameses' quilts came to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1997 and became the International Quilt Museum's founding collection, this spirit of documentation and historical inquiry carried on. Many of the research projects undertaken by curators and students over the years have sprung from or been helped by the detailed records that Ardis James kept about each of their quilts. Some of the research projects drawn from the James Collection have focused on single quilts—often, pieces with novel aesthetic characteristics and histories, such as the famous Reconciliation Quilt. Other projects have looked at groups of quilts, whether made by an individual such as Grandma Carpenter, or by many different people within a broad regional locale, such as nineteenth-century cut-out chintz appliqué quilts. Even wider studies have been conducted, including that of the entirety of the James Collection that dates between 1870 and 1940, which resulted in the publication and exhibition, American Quilts in the Modern Age.

The James Collection is a large, rich, and varied group of quilts that has supported a range of research projects and will continue to do so long into the future. The pages in this section feature quilts that have been researched at the IQM and included in various publications and exhibitions.