Major Collections


The Jonathan Holstein Collection, including the 1971 Whitney Museum Exhibition quilts

The Jonathan Holstein Collection, including the 1971 Whitney Museum Exhibition quilts

To view quilts from the Holstein collection go to Search the Collections, scroll down to the IQSC Collection field and select "Jonathan Holstein Collection" from the drop-down box.

The Jonathan Holstein Quilt Collection and the Holstein Collection of Archival Materials includes more than 400 quilts, numerous quilt-related items, and hundreds of documents. The gift in 2003 to the University of Nebraska Foundation came from both Jonathan Holstein, collector and author, and Ardis and Robert James, benefactors responsible for the formation of the International Quilt Study Center.

More than thirty years ago, Holstein, of Cazenovia, New York, and his partner, Gail van der Hoof discovered pieced quilts made in Pennsylvania. Holstein describes "...a moment of instant recognition when our mutual interest in art, particularly modern art, Gail's interest in handcrafts, and my interest in folk art and early American domestic history and its associated objects, all converged." Holstein and van der Hoof were drawn to quilts that appealed to them visually, particularly examples that often bore startling resemblances to modern art. The collection represents many years of intensive collecting across the United States on the part of two people with sophisticated knowledge and taste in both American design and modern art.

The collection is one of the most historically important collections in existence: the quilts represent the most exhibited, reproduced and seen of any American quilts. It includes a group of 60 quilts shown at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1971, more than 100 Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and Midwestern Amish quilts and approximately 240 pieced and applique quilts from Pennsylvania. Holstein's extensive archival records cover the period from the late 1960s, when he first began to collect and study quilts, to the present time.

The group of quilts assembled for the 1971 exhibition "Abstract Design in American Quilts" at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York is regarded by most quilt scholars as instrumental in igniting the quilt renaissance of the 20th and 21st centuries. The exhibition elevated quilts to the same level as "high" art by presenting them on the walls of a prestigious art museum and by comparing their graphic and painterly qualities to those found in modern abstract art.

In addition to the Whitney group, the Holstein Collection also includes an unparalleled collection of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Amish quilts collected by Holstein and Gail van der Hoof in the 1970s. Noted quilt historian Patricia Herr commented, "Holstein and van der Hoof carefully gathered an incredible collection. The Amish portion is one of the largest and highest quality ever gathered, certainly the largest in private hands." Impossible to assemble again, this well known and superlative group fills a very significant gap in the IQSC's collection, and gives the Center a vital resource for both public exhibition and scholarly study.

Robert Shaw, former curator of the Shelburne Museum said, "The addition of this historically important group of quilts to the Center's collection should be celebrated not just by everyone who cares about quilts, but also by anyone who cares about American art and design."