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Kentucky Quilt Project records

Identifier: 1999_082-UA
Included in this thirty-nine linear foot collection are slides and other photographic documentation of Kentucky Quilts. During the period these papers cover, KQP was located at several different sites and some files were removed for storage. At times, several people kept files of similar papers; thus files at first glance sometimes appear to be duplicates. Files in this collection were not inter-filed but rather grouped by topic, usually by quilt exhibits.

The six series in this collection are divided into the major projects undertaken by KQP. Series I covers office files which do not naturally fall into the individual exhibits or other activity. Series II, III, and IV contain information about the exhibits and quilt activity of KQP. Series V contains material pertaining to the Quilt Journal published by KQP. Series VI deals with the KQP effort to develop a national quilt index.

Of these six series, number IV “Louisville Celebrates the American Quilt” is by far the largest with twenty-six of the thirty-nine linear feet of this collection. Series II, “Kentucky Quilts 1800-1900,” is also comparatively large with six-and-a-half linear feet. The smallest, series VI Quilt Index, is tiny comprising .2 linear feet in several scattered folders in three boxes. Each series is divided into the following categories in this order: literary production, organizational papers, legal documents, correspondence, financial documents, photographic material, printed material, miscellaneous.

Reviews of Kentucky Quilt Project books and exhibits as well as announcements of exhibits, articles, and catalogs can be found in the clipping files that are arranged chronologically. Most are also in the two scrapbooks which compile information about the two major exhibits “Kentucky Quilts 1800-1900” and “Louisville Celebrates the American Quilt.”


  • 1980-1997


Conditions Governing Use

The copyright interests have not been transferred to the University of Louisville.


42.75 linear feet (7 records center boxes, 1 manuscript box, 1 flat box, 1 slide box, 5 cardboxes, 2 rolled sets of posters (additional material is currently unprocessed))

Biographical / Historical

This collection includes the papers of The Kentucky Quilt Project (KQP) from its inception in 1980 until 1997 (the bulk of the papers from 1980 to 1983 and 1991 to 1994). The papers provide information on and documentation of quilts; Quilt Days; local, national, and international quilt exhibitions; traveling exhibitions; three books; one scholarly monograph; six issues of a scholarly biannual quilt journal; the quilt index; and general office files.

Three major projects are encompassed in the Kentucky Quilt Project papers: 1) a 1983 exhibit called “Kentucky Quilts 1800-1900,” 2) a set of six exhibits in 1991-1992 called “Louisville Celebrates the American Quilt” including a four-conference weekend dedicated to quilt scholarship, and 3) the Quilt Journal published from 1992-1995. KQP also joined forces with other state quilt documentation projects to establish a national quilt index. In addition, KQP was associated with other quilt activity locally, nationally, and internationally.

The first major exhibit, “Kentucky Quilts 1800-1900,” was held in Louisville, Kentucky, at the Louisville Museum of History and Science, February 5-March 31, 1983, following a dozen Quilt Days throughout Kentucky. The Quilt Day is a concept invented by the KQP founders to collect information on Kentucky’s historic quilts, an idea that was later picked up by other states as they began to document historic quilts. Collected information was used to develop the exhibit and it was also the basis for the book/exhibit catalog. Kentucky Quilts 1800 – 1900 by Jonathan Holstein and John Finley was published by KQP and sold during the Louisville exhibit, and at the following national and international traveling quilt exhibit sites. At the close of the Louisville exhibit, twenty quilts went on tour to Ireland and within the United States with the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibits Service (SITES) between July 1983 and May 1985.

In preparation for the 1983 “Kentucky Quilts 1800-1900” exhibit, KQP scheduled twelve Quilt Days across the state to locate and document historic quilts. (See listing below under Quilt Days for “Kentucky Quilts 1800-1900.”) Quilt Days were designed and held with the goal of finding fine and unique examples of antique quilts as well as quilts with intact provenance, including known makers and histories. Quilt Days were scheduled in the months preceding the exhibit from July 1981 to March 1982, with one additional Quilt Day held during the exhibit on February 5, 1983. Documentation includes slides, snapshots, Polaroid prints, and written documentation of about 1,000 quilts as well as several videotapes.

During the relatively quiet period between the 1983 “Kentucky Quilts, 1800-1900” and the 1991 to 1992 shows of “Kentucky Celebrates the American Quilt,” The Kentucky Quilt Project sponsored or supported four exhibits including two in Louisville, one in Texas, and one in Australia. They were:

• “The Artist and the Quilt,” July 12 - August 29, 1984, Louisville Visual Art Association, Louisville, Kentucky. • “Quilt Festival ‘84” and “Quilt Market” exhibit, October 27 - November 4, 1984, Houston, Texas. • “Virginia Ivey Quilt” exhibit, the J.B. Speed Art Museum, 1985, Louisville, Kentucky. • “Covering Kentucky” an American Antique Quilt Exhibition, November 6-15, 1987, Sydney, Australia.

The second major KQP exhibit, “Louisville Celebrates the American Quilt,” included six separate quilt exhibits in Louisville venues, the first beginning November 22, 1991, and the last finishing May 3, 1992. Each of the six exhibitions had a unique theme, ranging from an exhibit of Amish quilts at the J.B. Speed Art Museum to an exhibit at the Kentucky Art and Craft Gallery of art objects based on quilt designs. All exhibits were open during most of February and March 1992. Exhibits were:

• “A Plain Aesthetic: Lancaster Amish Quilts” exhibit at the J.B. Speed Art Museum, February 4 - May 3, 1992. • “Abstract Design in American Quilts” exhibit, a twentieth-anniversary remounting of the landmark 1971 Whitney Museum of American Art exhibit (New York City) at the Louisville Museum of History and Science, November 22, 1991 - March 31, 1992. • “Always There: The African-American Presence in American Quilts” exhibit at the Louisville Museum of History and Science, February 7 - March 31, 1992. • “Narrations: The Quilts of Yvonne Wells and Carolyn Mazloomi” exhibit at the Louisville Visual Art Association, February 2 - March 29, 1992. • “Quilt Conceptions: Designs in Other Media” exhibit at the Kentucky Art and Craft Gallery, January 21, 1992 - March 29, 1992. • “Quilts Now” exhibit at the Zephyr Gallery, January 31 - March 29, 1992.

In conjunction with these exhibits, KQP published two books: Abstract Design in American Quilts: A Biography of an Exhibition by Jonathan Holstein and Always There: The African-American Presence in American Quilts by Cuesta Benberry. KQP also printed a third edition of their 1982 book, Kentucky Quilts 1800 – 1900 by Jonathan Holstein and John Finley. The series of exhibits initiated its run with four coinciding scholarly conferences under the title “American Quilt Celebration Weekend,” February 6-8, 1992, followed in 1994 by the publication of a limited printing conference lecture monograph, Expanding Quilt Scholarship: The Lectures, Conferences and Other Presentations of “Louisville Celebrates the American Quilt.” The exhibits also included a Kentucky Quilt Day, March 21, 1992, with “Quilts before 1950” at the Louisville Museum of History and Science and “Quilts after 1950” at the Louisville Visual Art Association.

Following the closing of the 1992 exhibit, a smaller traveling exhibit of “Always There: The African-American Presence in American Quilts” toured in the United States from October 1992 through November 1994. (See site listings in “Louisville Celebrates the American Quilt” below, under the subhead: “Traveling exhibit ‘Always There: The African-American Presence in American Quilts’.”)

The Quilt Journal was initiated during the development of the “Louisville Celebrates the American Quilt” exhibits. The first issue was distributed in November 1992 and publication continued during the exhibits and through the first issue of 1995. Dedicated to the publishing of quilt scholarship, The Kentucky Quilt Project published four volumes of the Quilt Journal with two volumes of two issues each and two volumes of one issue each.

The Kentucky Quilt Project was one of the initiators of the “Quilt Index Needs Assessment for the Library of Congress” presented in 1992, and “The International Quilt Index Needs Assessment Preliminary Proposal, December 1992.”



Kentucky Quilt Project Records
In Progress
Processed by Archives Staff
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Louisville Archives and Special Collections Repository

Ekstrom Library, Lower Level Room 17
Louisville KY 40292
502 852-6752
502 852-6673 (Fax)