Digging In

When the James quilts arrived at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1997, the groundwork for meeting the Jameses’ goals of a comprehensive collection and academic study center was firmly in place. The existing History of Textiles degree was enhanced with an emphasis in quilt studies. A hybrid program of in-person and online classes offered students an opportunity to complete their degree from anywhere. Students were able to select from a wide variety of quilt genres, historical eras, and technical elements to focus on. Early research topics included historical developments in sewing thread manufacture that help in dating quilts; identification of Mennonite quilts and understanding their cultural significance; and aesthetic connections between Victorian-era gardening and quilt design. Over the years, UNL quilt studies students wrote scholarly articles on a variety of topics, including the history of the sewing machine, debunking assumptions about Amish quilts, quilts made for the families of fallen U.S. soldiers, early quilt dealers, and quilts made for adopted Chinese children