Building a world-class art collection almost always requires a certain degree of obsession.

Robert and Ardis James, both natives of Nebraska, grew up with relatives who quilted. Additionally, Ardis made quilts herself, and for nearly a decade co-owned a fabric shop. Thus, traditional American quilts were familiar, everyday objects for the couple; they had admired them casually for years. But when Ardis bought her first antique quilt—a 19th-century beauty—quilts soon captivated them and rose to a new level of meaning and importance. As they acquired another and then another, the Jameses became fascinated, not only with the quilts themselves, but with the process of building a collection. They quickly understood the value of acquiring a variety of quilts, both to enjoy as singular objects of beauty and as representatives of the history and cultural significance of an often overlooked form of folk art. From early on, they developed a larger view: their quilt collecting was not just a hobby, it was a shared passion for documenting and preserving quilts for the future.

Here's how they got started and how they pursued their goal of building, as Robert James put it, "an absolutely comprehensive collection of quilts from all over the world. All types. All genres.