An evening of scholarly presentations explores the historical, material, and cultural significance of quilts from military fabrics. The program will begin with a keynote lecture by War and Pieced co-curator and international quilt historian, author, and collector Dr. Annette Gero. Speakers include Neal Hurst, associate curator of costumes and textiles at Colonial Williamsburg Foundation; Sue Reich, independent scholar and quilt historian; and Jonathan Holstein, independent scholar and author of The Pieced Quilt: An American Design Tradition. Carolyn Ducey, curator of collections at International Quilt Study Center & Museum, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, will moderate the discussion.
This event is sold out. The program will be live-streamed on our Facebook page.
Meanderings of the Collector – Dr. Annette Gero
Revealing the extraordinary stories of how she found, researched, and documented these quilts, this keynote will provide an overview of the quilts included in the War and Pieced exhibition. Many questions about the quilts still need to be answered, such as who made them, what they were used for, and how we need to view these textiles from an eighteenth and nineteenth century perspective. Kings, generals, and tailors commissioned many of the quilts, some of which were made by soldiers in prison and hospital, all using uniform fabric. This presentation will attempt to unravel some of the extraordinarily glorious, and previously unknown, textile history.
Broadcloth, Coating, and Kersey: Woolen Soldiers Clothing, 1750–1950 – Neal Hurst
From Bunker Hill to the beaches at Normandy, wool was the primary fabric worn by soldiers going into combat. Wool textiles provided a hard wearing, serviceable, and comfortable uniform. This talk will explore woolen military textiles and the traditions surrounding clothing as a fighting force.
Parsing Quilts: Beginnings – Jonathan Holstein
A basic human aesthetic response to square and rectangular formats has existed for thousands of years—one that developed in conjunction with squared architecture and has informed many areas of artistic creativity, especially textiles. In that regard, the fundamental, traditional overall quilt format developed anciently, primarily in the Middle East and Asia, in a variety of textiles and other decorative arts. Within that central form, the basic overall design configurations that we now associate with traditional quilts evolved in various manifestations, particularly in the Middle East. Through the centuries, those designs, which were embodied primarily in textiles that included quilts, migrated to Europe through trade, where their overall compositions eventually became incorporated into European quilts. Ultimately, those formats and some of the textiles that both inspired and embodied them arrived in the United States, where they informed American quilt designs.
Military Fabrics in Twentieth Century American War Quilts – Sue Reich
Focusing on twentieth century American quilts made during times of war, this talk will explore quilts made from soldiers’ uniforms and insignia, with an emphasis on woolen military textiles.
5:00 pm: Registration
5:20 pm: Welcome remarks by Stacy C. Hollander
5:30 pm: Keynote: Dr. Annette Gero
6:30 pm: Break
6:50 pm: Neal Hurst
7:15 pm: Jonathan Holstein
7:40 pm: Sue Reich
8:05 pm: Discussion and Q&A
8:40 pm: Reception
Dr. Annette Gero, PhD, author, collector, and international quilt historian, has been collecting and documenting quilts since 1982. She has curated thirty-three exhibitions in Australia and internationally, and she has lectured on quilt history in the United States, Canada, New Zealand, France, and England. In 1986, she was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society for Arts (London) in recognition of her work on Australian quilt history. She is a member of the advisory board and an associate fellow at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum, Lincoln, Nebraska; founder and patron of the Sydney Quilt Study Group; past president of the Quilt Study Group of Australia; the first international member of the American Quilt Study Group; and lecturer for the Australian Academy of Decorative Arts. She is highly recognized for her quilt collection, which has been described in Australia as “a national treasure.” Her outstanding contribution to the history of Australian quilting has been documented in the Archives of the National Library of Australia, Canberra. Her collection has been exhibited throughout Australia and at the Musée de L’Impression sur Etoffes, Mulhouse, France; the Musée des Traditions et Arts Normands, Normandy, France; the International Quilt Show in Houston, Texas; The European Quilt Symposium, Alsace, France; the University of Alberta, Canada; and most recently at The Museum of Folk Art, Berlin, Germany. She is author of four books on the history of quilts, including Historic Australian Quilts, The Fabric of Society: Australia’s Quilt History from Convict Times to 1960, Making the Australian Quilt, and the book on her latest collection of war quilts made by men, Wartime Quilts: Appliqué and Geometric Masterpieces from Military Fabrics.
Neal Hurst received a BA in history from the College of William and Mary and an MA from the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture at the University of Delaware. He served as assistant curator on the inaugural exhibition for the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In August 2016, Neal joined the curatorial team at The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation as the associate curator of costume and textiles.
Jonathan Holstein has been involved with quilts since he and his wife Gail van der Hoof began to collect them for their graphic qualities in the late 1960s. Their 1971 exhibition Abstract Design in American Quilts at the Whitney Museum of American Art is noted as a pivotal event in an aesthetic reassessment of the genre. The first Amish quilts shown in museum exhibitions were included in their Whitney show, and they curated the first all-Amish exhibitions that appeared in a number of American museums. Over the next several decades, they curated scores of similar exhibitions at museums in the United States, Europe, and Japan, and they lectured on the subject here and abroad, which coupled with the Whitney exhibition, are considered significant factors in the development and growth of the contemporary art quilt movement. Holstein has written many exhibition catalogs, and his first book on the subject, The Pieced Quilt: An American Design Tradition, was published in 1973. Holstein continues to curate museum exhibitions as well as lecture and write about quilts as aesthetic and historic objects. American folk art in general and Native American art are other areas in which he has been involved since the 1960s.
Sue Reich first learned to quilt as a child at her Grandmother Martin’s farmhouse in Crawford County, Pennsylvania. The celebration of the United States’ bicentennial sparked her love for quiltmaking and her interest in quilt history. Sue was instrumental in documenting and researching the historic quilts of Connecticut, and she co-authored the official quilt documentation book of her home state. An American Quilter’s Society certified appraiser and National Quilting Association trained judge, Sue still finds time to make her own quilt creations for her family and for the Quilts of Valor Foundation, where she serves on the board of directors. She is the author of World War II Quilts (2010) and World War I Quilts (2014).
Carolyn Ducey has been the Curator of Collections at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum (IQSCM) at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln since 1998. Ducey oversees the ongoing care and management of the IQSCM collection of more than 5,200 quilts. She is the author of the monograph Chintz Appliqué: From Imitation to Icon (2008), co-author of What’s in a Name: Inscribed Quilts (2012), and co-editor of American Quilts in the Industrial Age 1760–1870: A Catalog of the IQSCM Collections (February 2019). Ducey earned an MA in American Art History from Indiana University in 1998, and a PhD in Textiles, Clothing & Design (with an emphasis in Quilt Studies) at the University of Nebraska in 2010.
Image credit: Intarsia Quilt with Soldiers and Musicians (detail), artist unidentified (initialed “J.S.J.”), Prussia, c. 1760–1780, wool, with embroidery thread; intarsia, hand-appliquéd and -embroidered, 55 x 43 in., the Annette Gero Collection. Photo by Tim Connolly, Shoot Studios.