ornette co-leman

Quilt Treasures

Quilt Treasures: Documenting the 20th Century Quilt Revival is a collaborative documentary project focused on the revival of interest in quilts and quilting. It is one of many projects undertaken by institutions across the United States to document the so-called 'Quilt Revival.' The Quilt Treasures project conducts oral histories and develops Web portraits of individuals who played a significant role in the revival of quilting in the late twentieth century. These individuals include quilters, scholars, entrepreneurs, collectors and publishers. The primary components of the project have been recording and preserving the audio or videotaped oral history through mini-documentaries and developing and curating online Web portraits using the recorded interviews and a variety of other museum resources. These Web portraits are intended to benefit researchers in the field of quilt history and have been featured in both scholarly publications, such as Uncoverings, the academic journal of the American Quilt Study Group, and popular magazines for quilters, including the Quilter's Newsletter.


The Alliance for American Quilts began to develop a strategy that would identify and document key figures in the quilt revival movement and present and preserve the documentation for future generations in the 1990s. The Quilt Treasures Project was begun by The Alliance for American Quilts, Michigan State University Museum, and MATRIX: The Center for Humane Arts, Letters and Social Sciences Online to meet these goals.

Quilt Treasures is now a national oral history project focused on those individuals key to the quilt revival. The project involves in-depth, multimedia documentation of these individuals' lives, their work, and their influence on the quilt world.

According to Alliance for American Quilts co-founder, Shelly Zegart: “Quilt Treasures are the special women and men who were key to the American quilt revival of the 1960s and 1970s, reawakening interest nationwide in the history, craft, and social and aesthetic value of quilts. They ensured the preservation and documentation of quilts through the state and regional quilt projects and they took quilting as a cultural expression to new heights. As creators, teachers, communicators, and links in a growing network, these ‘quilt treasures’ built an art form and an industry that today involves and touches millions of Americans. As these individuals began to retire from active involvement in the quilt world, an important piece of American social and cultural history was at risk of being lost.” (Zegart, 2003)

Interview Protocol

A task force for the project created a standard set of questions that could be asked of each individual interviewee. Additional individual-specific questions were generated for particular interviews as needed. A two-member documentary team consisting of a documentary videographer and interviewer was formed for each interview. Everyone interviewed in this oral history project gave their written consent. The specific interviewees were chosen based upon suggestions by Alliance for the American Quilt board members, the Quilt Treasures task force, and others knowledgeable about the late twentieth century revival period in American quilting history.

Web Portraits

The Quilt Treasures Web portraits feature biographies and videotaped interviews, mini-documentaries, photos, a timeline of activities, bibliographies and other resources relating to each individual. Other components have been developed as needed based on the interviewee’s life and work. These components have included testimonies from friends and/or colleagues, exhibit histories, teaching portfolios, and poetry. Individuals currently documented with web portraits include:


Many of the individuals documented as Quilt Treasures have had wide-reaching impacts not only within the quilting world, but beyond the field of quilting and quilt history. Cuesta Benberry, for example, was a noted scholar of African American history and culture. Scholars of oral history use the documentaries produced by this project to document and understand various aspects of American culture. One of the most popular min-documentaries, "On Pimento cheese sandwiches," provides insight into an aspect of Southern culture and foodways.

Related Publications

  • Crosby, David. Quilts and Quilting in Claiborne County: Traditions and Change in a Rural Southern County. Port Gibson, Mississippi: Mississippi Cultural Crossroads, 1999.
  • Dubois, Jean. The Colonial History Quilt. Wheat Ridge, CO: Leman Publications, 1976.
  • Gross, Joyce and Cuesta Benberry. 20th Century Quilts: 1900-1970: Women Make Their Mark. Paducah, KY: American Quilter's Society, 1997.
  • MacDowell, Marsha (2003). "Collecting Stories: The Oral Interview in Research," in Studs Terkel: Conversations with America. Chicago: Chicago Historical Society, 2002. Consulted February 1, 2005.
  • Marston, Gwen and Joe Cunningham. Mary Schafer and Her Quilts. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Museum, 1990.


  • The Alliance for American Quilts presents…Center for the Quilt Online: Quilt Treasures. Retrieved 25 August 2008.
  • Hall-Patton, Colleen. "Jean Ray Laury in the 1960s: Foremother of a Quilt Revival." Uncoverings. (Vol. 26) 2005.
  • MacDowell, M. and J. Richardson, Multi-purposing Museum Media: Quilt Treasures Oral History and Documentary Web Portraits, in J. Trant and D. Bearman (eds.). Museums and the Web 2005: Proceedings, Toronto: Archives & Museum Informatics, published March 31, 2005 at
  • Verma, Lois Marilyn. "Alliance Celebrates Anniversary with Raffle." Quilter's Newsletter,
  • Zegart, Shelly. Press release jointly issued by The Alliance for American Quilts and Michigan State University, February 2003.

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