Caring for the Collection
Caring for the Collection

One of our greatest responsibilities and
privileges at the International Quilt Study Center and museum is ensuring that our world-class collection is protected and preserved for future generations to
enjoy and study. Whether quilts are new or returning from display outside the
museum the first thing we do is put them in isolation. This special area of the
building includes a freezer which kills any bugs or larvae that might be
attached to a quilt and could infect the rest of the collection. Quilted and
stored in sealed plastic bags and inspected to ensure that no outside
pests enter the collection after at least two weeks in isolation, quilts are
vacuumed by a team of volunteers before being stored again. To vacuum a quilt we
place a soft flexible screen over it. This prevents the vacuum suction from
pulling on the quilt and damaging it. We slowly move the vacuum over both sides of the quilts. The quilt house team takes pest control
seriously. We follow policies set by the American Alliance of Museums. It’s a lot
of work we do it to protect the quilts for future generations.
Quilts introduced to the collection are assigned a unique number and affixed
with a cloth label containing basic information. The labels are 100% non
bleach cotton and hand sewn with large stitches. Our staff and volunteers
perform object surveys on all new and returning items. This gives us a chance
to thoroughly study every quilt in the collection and start a file for it. With the
object survey we establish the quilts length and width and whether it was made by hand, by machine or both. We take note of how the binding was applied and the
number of stitches per inch. We determine the fiber in the quilt and what fabrics
were used. We also make notes of any inscriptions which are later researched
by our genealogical task force. All of this information goes into our database
along with any history or genealogical information we might have on each quilt.
Most quilts are loosely folded, wrapped in tissue paper and placed in archival
boxes along with rolls of tissue paper to prevent creases from forming. Once in
the collection, each clip is refolded periodically to prevent permanent lines
from forming. Some quilts are stored flat in drawers or rolled. Some
of the quilts in our collection can never be folded. They may be too fragile
or too heavy and folding would damage them others may have painted surfaces
and must remain flat. The white cotton gloves worn by staff and volunteers
prevent body oils from transferring to the quilts. For their own protection
quilts are displayed for a maximum of 12 months out of every 10 years. This
minimizes the amount of light exposure and reduces the wear and tear from
hanging on display. Quilts are stored in our state-of-the-art climate-controlled
facility this includes a series of moveable shelves rolls and flattened
units. Our collection and exhibition spaces are
kept at a constant 65 degrees Fahrenheit and 50% humidity. Many of these
conservation practices can be used at home to care for your own textile
collections. You can purchase a copy of to protect and preserve in the quilt
house museum shop or download a copy from our website.

1 thought on “Caring for the Collection”

  1. Ronald Tesdall says:

    Holly, now I know what you do and how you do it!             Marian

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