International Quilt Study Center & Museum, Lincoln, United States

The International Quilt Study Center & Museum is the home of the world’s largest publicly held quilt collection. Established in 1997, the center opened a new museum, Quilt House, in 2008. The privately-funded, environmentally sustainable museum houses more than 4,000 quilts and objects, state-of-the-art research and storage space and spacious galleries. The center’s mission to collect, preserve, study, exhibit and promote discovery of quilts and quiltmaking traditions from many cultures, countries and times. IQSCM is an academic program of the Department of Textiles, Merchandising and Fashion Design in the College of Education and Human Sciences at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The International Quilt Study Center & Museum’s mission is to build a global collection and audience that celebrate the cultural and artistic significance of quilts.

The International Quilt Study Center & Museum at Quilt House is located on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s East Campus at 33rd and Holdrege streets. The museum has the world’s largest publicly held quilt collection, dating from the early 1700s to present and representing more than 50 countries.

We envision the IQSCM as a dynamic center of formal and informal learning and discovery for students, teachers, scholars, artists, quilters and others. Our comprehensive and accessible collection of quilts, related textiles and documents form a primary text for study, insight and inspiration. IQSCM is an academic program of the Department of Textiles, Merchandising & Fashion Design in the College of Education and Human Sciences at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The department offers a unique masters degree in Textile History with a quilt studies emphasis, which is the only program of its kind in the world.

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The International Quilt Study Center & Museum was founded in 1997 when native Nebraskans Ardis and Robert James donated their collection of nearly 950 quilts to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Their contribution became the centerpiece of what is now the largest publicly held quilt collection in the world.

Through private funds from the University of Nebraska Foundation and a lead gift from the James family, the center opened in its new location in 2008. The glass and brick “green” building, designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects, houses the quilts, a state-of-the-art research and storage space, educational displays, and custom-crafted galleries where selections from the collections and special exhibitions are shown to the public on a rotating basis.

The International Quilt Study Center was established in June 1997 when native Nebraskans Ardis and Robert James donated nearly 1,000 quilts to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

During the center’s early years, the Ardis and Robert James Collection of Antique and Contemporary Quilts was stored in a renovated climate-controlled space in the Home Economics Building on UNL’s East Campus. The IQSC used these quilts—along with other additions to the collection—to create exhibitions displayed in galleries on campus and around the world.

In 2008, the IQSC moved to Quilt House, a 37,000-square-foot building with three exhibition galleries and state-of-the-art textiles storage. The museum was built using private funding received through the University of Nebraska Foundation, including a lead gift from the James family. More than 130 quilt guilds and quilt organizations in three other countries provided gifts for the building’s construction.

Robert A.M. Stern Architects of New York, with Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture of Omaha, were selected out of more than 120 firms to design the building. The design is a metaphor for quilts—the glass windows represent the front of a quilt, the galleries are the batting and the offices make up the back of a quilt. The Reception Hall is shaped like the eye of a needle. Quilt House received LEED Silver Rating for its environmentally sustainable building in April 2009.

In 2013, the IQSCM received accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums. This is the highest national recognition a museum can receive.

The International Quilt Study Center & Museum at Quilt House opened a 13,000-square-foot expansion in June 2015. The new addition doubled the museum’s gallery and storage space. The expansion was made possible by a gift from the Robert and Ardis James Foundation as part of the University of Nebraska Foundation’s Campaign for Nebraska.

Quilt House was featured on HuskerVision’s “The Power of Red” video segment in 2008.

The quilts range from early examples of American and European quilts to contemporary studio quilts and international quilts. The collection now numbers more than 4000 quilts from twenty four countries, dating from the early 18th century to the present. Faculty and curatorial staff, visiting scholars and graduate student researchers pursue the study of the world’s quilt heritage at the center, and an ongoing acquisitions program seeks to document the full scope of global quilting traditions. The Center publishes catalogues to accompany some of its exhibitions, and these have included Wild by Design, Quilts in Common, American Quilts in the Modern Age 1870 – 1940, Perspectives: Art, Craft, Design and the Studio Quilt, and Marseille: The Cradle of White Corded Quilting.

The International Quilt Study Center & Museum is an academic program of the Department of Textiles, Merchandising and Fashion Design in the College of Education and Human Sciences at UNL. The department offers a master’s degree in Textile History with a quilt studies emphasis.