MSU Quilt Index to receive grant
To historians, a quilt does much more than provide a decorative bed covering — they can reveal everything from fashion trends to historical events.
This fall, the MSU Museum’s Quilt Index — an online database of more than 50,000 quilt images — will prepare to expand its resources internationally, using an almost $100,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, or IMLS. The IMLS is the primary source of federal support for U.S. libraries and museums.
The Quilt Index was one of 13 national recipients to receive one-year project planning grants, said Jeannine Mjoseth, public affairs officer for the IMLS.
This year, there were 62 applications for the “extremely competitive” grants, Mjoseth said.
“It’s really only the best of the best,” Mjoseth said. “It’s a difficult decision to make because you have many good projects that don’t get funded because there are so many good ones.”
The grant period begins Oct. 1 when the MSU Museum will begin contacting potential international contributors, such as libraries and museums, said Marsha MacDowell, the Quilt Index co-director, curator at the MSU Museum and acting co-director for MSU’s Museum Studies Program.
Aside from the MSU Museum, the Quilt Index’s other partners include MATRIX: The Center for Humane Arts, Letters and Social Sciences Online — an MSU digital resource and research center — and The Alliance for American Quilts, MacDowell said.
“We will be working with museums, libraries and archives around the world to add their data about their quilt holdings to this repository,” she said. “It’s building a critical mass of data that can be used for research and teaching.”
As part of the grant requirements, more than $54,000 will be matched for the Quilt Index in the form of faculty members’ time, MacDowell said.
The Quilt Index uses technology that allows the MSU Museum to expand its information database and, ultimately, make it easier for the public to obtain knowledge, said Lora Helou, the MSU Museum’s communications director.
“Any time we receive one of these national grants, it’s a validation of the high-quality work that an organization does,” Helou said. “It recognizes the value of the project and the aspiration of making what we have accessible to the public.”
The Quilt Index was launched in 2003 and was one of MATRIX’s flagship projects, said Justine Richardson, a MATRIX project manager who works with the Quilt Index.
“Quilts are an amazing medium of creative outlets for people,” Richardson said. “They have become markers of times, places, cultural events and people’s history.”
Although there might be no other record of a quilt maker other than the quilt, Richardson said it provides an expression of the person.
“We are really excited about this opportunity because quilt making is a global phenomenon and the aim of the Quilt Index has been to be inclusive of quilt making everywhere,” Richardson said.