My work life and quilt life are about to come together in a very exciting way! Some of you know that by day I work as a museum curator at an academic museum called the Pick Museum of Anthropology at Northern Illinois University. As a textile preservation specialist, one of the things that drew me to this job was the amazing collection of over 1,100 textiles.
Over the years since my boss, the Museum’s director, and I started working at the museum in 2012, the Pick Museum has grown and evolved into a space centered on social justice and human rights. We curate exhibits designed to start meaningful conversations with students, faculty, and the community. Previous exhibits have focused on social injustice in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, Southeast Asian refugee populations, and migration from Central America, and each of those exhibits was created with a philosophy of community involvement and co-curation that strengthens the work we do. In three of the last four years, the Pick Museum has received the Illinois Association of Museum's Superior Exhibit Award, the organization's highest award for exhibitions! We also strive to include textiles from around the world in each exhibit.
I’m so thrilled to share with my quilt friends that my museum’s exhibit for the Fall academic semester is “Quilts and Human Rights.” Organized by the Michigan State University Museum (which some of you may know as the home to the well-known quilt documentation project, The Quilt Index), the exhibit features 28 quilts from around the world that honor champions of human rights, document events and experiences that show quiltmaking as a means of coping with oppression, and examine how quilts can raise awareness about social issues. Supplemented by 12 additional quilts curated by the Pick Museum, the exhibit demonstrates the ways quilts have been made to show solidarity with international human rights movements.
In addition to being mission driven at our social justice museum focused on textile collections, this exhibit is very meaningful to me personally. The MSU Museum was the first museum where I ever worked back when I was a 20-year-old undergrad, and I still carry with me the lessons I learned from my hands-on experiences at that museum as well as from MSU’s incredible museum studies program. Working at the MSU Museum sparked my love for and interest in studying textiles and quilts. Renting a traveling exhibit from MSU and curating additional quilts into the exhibit is a real dream come true. As a quilter and textile curator, I’ve also worked hard studying the history of textile production and how textiles relate to activism globally. It is an important history and I can’t wait to share over 40 amazing human rights themed quilts made around the world with visitors at my museum.
The exhibit is very successful at amplifying the voices of underrepresented or unknown quilters, however I’ve also been working with some quilters you may be familiar with to get the additional 12 quilts loaned to the Pick Museum's installation. I’m very proud that Chawne Kimber, Jacquie Gering, the Social Justice Sewing Academy, and several other quilters have all agreed to lend quilts to this exhibit. I’ll be sharing much more about this exhibit, like behind the scenes photos of the installation and pictures of our programs, as we near the opening on September 5. If you live in driving distance of DeKalb, Illinois, you won’t want to miss the exhibit!
NOTES: All opinions are my own. Also note, The Pick Museum's website is currently under construction and will include information about this exhibit soon. Do you want to learn how you, your quilt shop, or your guild can get involved and support this important exhibit? Contact me with any questions!