By 1988 the quilts had overtaken the Jameses' home. They hung many quilts, storing the rest in stacks laying flat on beds all around, folded in linen closets and even in a painstakingly fabric-lined clothes chute. But as their collection grew, resulting in borrowing requests for shows around the country, it became increasingly difficult for Ardis to unearth those specified quilts which might easily rest in the middle or bottom of a pile. Bob’s solution? They built a spacious 22 ft. x 30 ft., cathedral-ceilinged gallery and workroom above their garage. (“Bob never does things halfway,” Ardis explained.) This added ample wall space for displaying recent acquisitions, even the largest quilts, and plenty of special platforms to hold the quilts flat, avoiding fold lines. It also made it much easier for Ardis to give quilt tours to their increasing number of interested visitors.

As the collection grew from dozens to hundreds of quilts, Ardis and Bob added new categories and styles to their holdings. They educated themselves on American quilt history, digging into the existing literature and corresponding with dealers and historians who could help them 

After collecting a mere 10 years, their collection had become so noted they were invited to mount an exhibit in Japan (complete with a 128-page catalogue—Quilts: The James Collection—including a message from the U.S. Ambassador there).