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Quilt History Snippets - September
By Kathleen L Moore
Posted: 2022-09-06T18:45:22Z

What: Review of Uncoverings 1990, Volume 11 of the Research Papers of the American Quilt Study Group

Topic: "A Profile of Quilts and Donors at the DAR Museum"

Authors: Nancy Gibson Tuckhorn


The author, Nancy Gibson Tuckhorn, was a long-time curator at the DAR at the time this article was written (over several decades mid- to late twentieth century). She curated numerous exhibitions and authored or co-authored books and articles on quilt history including this one for AQSG’s Uncoverings.

 

She provides an informative summary of the history of the DAR which was, interestingly, created in 1890 as a result of women having been excluded from membership in the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR). The SAR had been created in 1875 “by a group of men wishing to perpetuate the memories of their Revolutionary War ancestors.” In April of 1890 they “voted to exclude women from membership.” A few women took umbrage, and a movement began by these women to create an organization to “honor their ancestors, women in particular, in a relevant manner.” [pp. 130-131] The National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution was formalized on October 11, 1890 with Mrs. Caroline Scott Harrison, wife of President Benjamin Harrison, elected as President-General. [p. 131] Collected and donated artifacts were housed by the Smithsonian Institution by an act of Congress passed in 1896. The building of Memorial Continental Hall was accomplished in 1909 and housing and exhibiting of artifacts began on site at that time. An annex building was added in 1950. In 1973 the DAR was accredited by the American Association of Museums.

 

Tuckhorn notes that the holdings focus on “objects made or used in America in the pre-industrial period” and the “cut-off date for Museum accessions is 1840” “[t]extiles handmade or handwoven up to 1900 are accepted.” Study and exhibition “of these textiles provide a means to attain an important goal of the NSDAR: ‘to document and preserve the achievements of American women.” [p. 131] One wonders if the Museum guidelines for accession have changed since this article was written in 1990.

 

Tuckhorn’s article continues with specifics and details about the textiles and quilts in the collection…dates made, categories of quilts, types, fibers used, plain vs printed, pieced vs appliqued, embroidered, etc. Additionally, Tuckhorn provides information on some of the quiltmakers of donated quilts focused on four questions: “Who made it? When was it made? Where was it made? How did the donor acquire it?” She notes that “it is not surprising to find that the vast majority were made east of the Mississippi River, where the largest population centers were located.” [p. 136]

 

Tuckhorn also discusses the question of why donors gave their quilts to the Museum. Over 72 percent of items in the collection were provided by “individual members or state societies and chapters.” [p. 137] There is a brief discussion of accession practices in the early years and the lack of detail in the early donor records followed by a description of efforts later on to improve on these procedures and to increase the sharing of information to a broader audience. The collection is currently available on the Quilt Index and at the DAR’s website which is collections.dar.org. I am told there is often more family history on the DAR’s database.

 

There is much more to this article that is revealing and informative about the influence of national events and the growth and depths of nationalism as well as the conditions of the economy and how they move people to contribute to the Museum’s collection, even how they choose to make their contribution, think sale vs donation.

 

This is another article that could serve as a springboard for further research and reporting. One hopes we can look forward to that in a future Seminar presentation.

 

That’s all for this month. Next month we will review “Quilts as Material History: Identifying Research Models.” If you do not have a copy of this, or any, edition of Uncoverings, check the publication list on the AQSG website to see if the particular volume is available…many still are. To access an online version of any issue of Uncoverings find the links at www.quiltindex.org. As always, you can contact me at kmoore81@austin.rr.com.