'Quilts of Southwest China' Opens in June

May 9, 2016

A new exhibition at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum in Lincoln, Neb., features the latest research in quilting and patchwork traditions from southwest China.

“Quilts of Southwest China” was created in partnership with the Michigan State University Museum in East Lansing, Michigan; the Mathers Museum of World Cultures at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana; and the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe. The exhibition opens June 3 and will run through Sept. 28.

“It was important for us to partner with other Big 10 universities to use our research in advancing an area of study that has received little attention so far,” said Leslie Levy, Ardis and Robert James Executive Director of Quilt House. “This was an important first step in spearheading study in a new area.”

The exhibition showcases 20 quilt covers and other examples of patchwork and quilting from the museum’s collection of southwest Chinese minority ethnic groups. IQSCM has more than 75 pieces from this area, which were collected, in part, by researchers Pam Najdowski and Patricia Stoddard, who performed IQSCM-funded field work in 2014. The museum continues to grow its collection from this—and other areas—of China with ongoing research.

The exhibition also includes 12 pieces on loan from three Chinese museums: Guangxi Nationalities Museum in Nanning; Guizhou Nationalities Museum in Guiyang; and Yunnan Nationalities Museum in Kunming.

Some ethnic groups in southwest China have a longstanding practice of making bedcovers and other household items made of patchwork. While ceremonial and high-class Chinese textiles have a long history of being collected and documented, researchers have only recently turned their focus to everyday objects, like patchwork bedcoverings.

“It’s both surprising and unsurprising, because we have seen the same situation elsewhere around the world,” said Marin Hanson, curator of exhibitions. “People pay more attention to top tier objects, but have focused less on artifacts of everyday use.”

“Quilts from Southwest China” debuted at Michigan State University in fall 2015 and was curated by Lijun Zhang, Ph.D., Curator of Folklife and Cultural Heritage, Guangxi Nationalities Museum, and Marsha MacDowell, Ph.D., Curator of Folk Arts, Michigan State University Museum. It will travel to the Mathers Museum of World Cultures and the International Folk Art Museum after its run at the IQSCM. The IQSCM version of the exhibition was co-curated by Marin Hanson.

“It’s a great partnership,” Hanson said. “We’re grateful for the leadership of Michigan State, in particular Marsha MacDowell, who has done so much work building relationships with Chinese museums to move this research and exhibition forward.”

Additional programs and activities will be offered during the exhibition’s run at IQSCM. There also is an accompanying catalog featuring color plates of the exhibition quilts and essays by leading textile scholars. Visit for more information and to plan your experience.

This exhibition was made possible through funding from the Nebraska Arts Council and the Nebraska Cultural Endowment. The Nebraska Arts Council, a state agency, has supported this exhibition through its matching grants program funded by the Nebraska Legislature and the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Nebraska Cultural Endowment. Visit for more information. Additional support was provided by Moda, FRIENDS of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum, Aurifil, Accuquilt and; as well as the Henry Luce Foundation, Delia Koo MSU Asian Studies Center Grant, Asian Cultural Council, MSSU Inclusive Excellence Grant, MSU Office of Chinese Programs and the Traditional Arts Exhibition Endowment, Michigan State University Museum.

About the International Quilt Study Center & Museum
Located on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s historic East Campus, the International Quilt Study Center & Museum makes its academic home at the Department of Textiles, Merchandising & Fashion Design in the College of Education and Human Sciences. The museum’s mission is to uncover the world through the cultural and artistic significance of quilts, and to research, acquire, and exhibit in all their forms and expressions. The museum’s world-renowned collection spans four generations and includes pieces from more than 45 countries.