Behind the scenes: the International Quilt Study Center and Museum


We recently had a one-of-a-kind opportunity to visit the International Quilt Study Center and Museum (IQSCM) in Lincoln, Nebraska, and assist with the photography of quilts in their collection. The IQSCM is home to more than 5,000 quilts and quilt-related pieces that span 50 countries and four centuries of quiltmaking.

The International Quilt Study Center and Museum

We were delighted to play a part in recording the history of many quilts in the museum’s collection, and we’re thrilled to support its mission: to uncover the world through the cultural and artistic significance of quilts, and to research, acquire, and exhibit them in all their forms and expressions. It’s a mission close to our hearts.

One of the many antique quilts photographed.

Brent Kane, Martingale’s photographer, spent several days at the museum, learning about their collection and photographing numerous quilts for archival purposes. We asked Brent a few questions about his visit. Here’s what he shared.

Stitch This!: What was your purpose for visiting the International Quilt Study Center and Museum (IQSCM)? What quilts did you go to photograph, and why? Was there a date range?

Brent: The center had a backlog of quilts that needed to be photographed, as well as some questions about the technical aspects of their photographic setup and workflow. I shot over 200 quilts while I was there. The quilts I saw ranged from more than 200 years old to less than 20 years old.

ST!: Were all the quilts you photographed flat?

Brent: No, there were dimensional quilted objects as well. One was a quilted camel-hump cover that might have been part of a wedding ceremony.

Brent discussing with volunteers how best to photograph an antique ceremonial quilted camel-hump cover.

This antique camel-hump cover was made as a three-dimensional piece. Rather than try to flatten its three-dimensional nature, we decided to shoot it from four views to record all portions of the design. Each shot shows the piece folded in a different way.


Part of the same acquisition was this string of quilted blocks.


ST!: How are the quilts stored? What about security?

BRENT: The quilts are stored in a tornado-proof section of the building with climate control and locked steel doors.

Archival boxes
Archival boxes are labeled with identification numbers.

Exterior view: sliding sections of quilt-storage shelves.

Sometimes quilts are stored flat due to the nature of the quilt. This one, known as the Button Quilt, weighs 40 pounds and is almost entirely composed of buttons sewn onto a fabric backing.

ST!: Were there any restrictions given to you about handling the quilts? What did you learn about protecting and preserving quilts?

Brent: I didn’t touch any of the quilts; instead, staff members and volunteers who are specially trained in the handling of the quilts were always there to help. The IQSCM has exacting procedures for folding and storing quilts. For example, when quilts are folded, fabric never touches fabric—there’s always a layer of acid-free archival tissue paper layered in between.

Folding antique quilts
A quilt being carefully folded with layers of acid-free tissue.

I shot a video of how the staff and volunteers unfolded and refolded a Dresden Plate quilt. You can see how much care they take with each piece.

Reading this post in email? Click here to watch the video.

ST!: Was there any particular quilt that jumped out at you as being unique?

Brent: What struck me most was the impressions I got of the makers of quilts. Quilters are generally very giving, humble, tactile, visual, caring, and industrious. I experienced that same spirit throughout my stay.

You can learn more about the IQSCM collection here.

Discover how the center acquires quilts for their collection.

Find out about their latest exhibit and learn what exhibits are coming soon.

Plan your visit.

The International Quilt Study Center and Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska: been there, planning to go there soon, or putting a trip to the IQSCM on your bucket list? Tell us in the comments.

5 bucks a book warehouse sale!














4 Comments (leave a comment)

  • I have been there twice, & plan to go again when we visit family in Nebraska!

    —Jeannine on November 4, 2016
  • Quie feliz si fuese la afortunada
    de recibir este premio
    saludos desde Gijon-España

    Translation: Quite happy if it were the lucky
    to receive this award
    greetings from Gijon-Spain

    Belarmina Antuña on November 4, 2016
  • I have been to the quilt study center twice and it is an amazing place to visit! The collection is wonderful and the Quilts are very carefully preserved and displayed. We are very fortunate to have this museum in Lincoln, Nebraska!

    —Kaye M on November 4, 2016
  • Alas,the trip is not in my future that I see now, however, I was very happy to see that the quilts are handled with such care. A truly great piece of our history.

    —stephane woodward on November 5, 2016

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