The Women In Science Quilt Project
Documentary Short Film by Randy Caspersen

A unique partnership between a science class called Women In Science, the Pick Museum of Anthropology at Northern Illinois University, and an academic Center for the Study of Women Gender and Sexuality Studies at Northern Illinois University resulted in a quilt celebrating women’s achievements and history in science fields. For this project, nearly 40 undergraduate students at NIU were taught basic sewing skills and learned about quilt history. Each block represents their artistic interpretation of scientific research undertaken by women historically or today. The quilt offered the students, co-facilitators Laura McDowell Hopper and Courtney Gallaher, and filmmaker Randy Caspersen a transformative experience to celebrate marginalized voices, empower students, and create a quilt.

Peaces - An Original Arrangement Inspired by the Exhibit Quilts and Human Rights
By NIU’s All Female A Cappella Group The Harmelodics
Film by Randy Caspersen

On September 5, 2017, the Pick Museum of Anthropology at NIU, where I work as curator, opened an exhibit called "Quilts and Human Rights." Originally curated by the Michigan State University Museum in 2008, I expanded the exhibit for our installation at the Pick to include almost 20 additional quilts made between 2008 and 2017 to bring the exhibit up to the present day. When we opened the exhibit, we never expected the ways these quilts would inspire faculty, staff, and students at Northern Illinois University. 

Earlier this year, NIU student Lili Fujiu visited "Quilts and Human Rights" on a class field trip. When her tour was over, she told me that she had visited the exhibit before and it inspired her to arrange a song for her a cappella group. She asked if the group, The Harmelodics, could rehearse the song in the museum so the rest of the members could see the quilts on display. Instead, we planned an incredible exhibit closing event around the song to celebrate the exhibit and our community. 

The performance was truly magical. Lili's arrangement, inspired by the social justice quilts on display, was so moving that there wasn't a dry eye in the room. Luckily, for those of you who could not attend, filmmaker and NIU professor Randy Caspersen captured the performance with the assistance of three of his students. Watch The Harmelodics sing "Peaces."

Quilts and Human Rights Exhibit Audio Tour
Sit and Sew Radio Episode 33 video

Private audio tour with curator Laura McDowell Hopper about the quilts featured in the exhibit “Quilts and Human Rights,” a traveling exhibit from the Michigan State University Museum which was expanded by McDowell Hopper to double in size for this installation. The audio tour on YouTube features images of each quilt discussed.

Go Tell It at the Quilt Show, by the Quilt Alliance
QuiltCon 2017

The Quilt Alliance documents quilters’ stories through oral histories and video projects like their Go Tell It at the Quilt Show initiative. In this video, I talk about the inspiration for my Bruce Springsteen-inspired quilt that hung at QuiltCon 2017 in Savannah, Georgia.


Find these podcast episodes on your favorite podcast service like Overcast or iTunes

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Crafty Planner Podcast
Episode 121: Laura McDowell Hopper

“One of the aspects I love about hosting the podcast is the ability it gives me to explore topics of interest. Having spent hours working on a quilt, thinking about the connection we have to makers in the past and making individual decisions about the quilt, one aspect I haven’t considered is what happens to the quilt in the long term. Bombarded with consumerist ideas, it seems like an endless cycle of making the latest and newest thing. But who decides what we preserve of this time in quilting history? What will be remembered and by whom? I tackle this topic a bit with Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi and Bill Volckening. Eager to explore the topic more extensively, I’m starting a podcast mini series about the preservation of quilts and the role of quilting making in history.

My first guest is Laura McDowell Hopper. Laura lives in Chicago and is a quilter, teacher, textile preservation specialist and curator at the James B and Rosalyn L Pick Museum of Anthropology. I met Laura at Quilt Con earlier this year and appreciated the opportunity to hear her insightful connection to textiles. We share a love for music and both enjoy exploring the idea of craft and art. During our conversation, we talk about the Pick Museum’s upcoming Quilts and Human Rights exhibit as well as why she feels quilt making is a feminist act. I also make a hilarious mistake in the episode. It’s a fun conversation and I hope you enjoy it.”

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Sit & Sew Radio
Episode 33: Laura McDowell Hopper, Quilts and Human Rights

A private audio tour of the exhibit “Quilts and Human Rights” with curator Laura McDowell Hopper, who discusses both the quilts featured in the original exhibit curated by the Michigan State University Museum as well as the quilts she added to the show for this installation.

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Sit & Sew Radio
Episode 28: Live from QuiltCon

Previous Sit & Sew Radio guests are interviewed from inside the podcast room at QuiltCon 2017 in Savannah, Georgia.

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Sit & Sew Radio
Episode 8: Quilt Preservation with Laura McDowell Hopper

Curator and textile preservation specialist Laura McDowell Hopper shares some of her best tips for keeping your quilts safe for generations.