Past Exhibitions


"Recycling and Resourcefulness: Quilts of the 1930s"

"Recycling and Resourcefulness: Quilts of the 1930s"

July 2 - August 31, 2007
Robert Hillestad Textiles Gallery

The Great Depression of the 1930s was the longest and most severe economic crisis in American history. It impacted jobs, standards of living and well being and many areas of American popular culture. It also created a sense of connectedness among those who experienced the period. Passed on orally in many families, the experience of life in hard times has become part of the common heritage of millions of Americans.

The generations who lived through the Depression are now elderly and soon the living voices describing those times will pass. One of the lasting artifacts of the era will be its quilts. The exhibition "Recycling and Resourcefulness: Quilts of the 1930s" featured quilts made by women who lived by the saying, "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without." The beauty and functionality they created from recycled fabrics gleaned from feed and flour sacks, old clothes and scraps left over from dressmaking left a lasting legacy of quiltmaking tradition. These quilts are excellent examples of material culture allowing us a glimpse into the lives of women who may have otherwise been overlooked or invisible, but who made up the better part of the backbone of a country during the "hard times". The quilt shown at right is IQSC 1997.007.0036 Grandmother's Fan, Circa 1930.

Merikay Waldvogel (Knoxville, Tennessee) is a nationally known quilt authority with books, exhibitions, articles and television appearances to her credit. She is best known for her published works on 1930s quilts including: "Soft Covers for Hard Times: Quiltmaking and the Great Depression" and "Patchwork Souvenirs of the 1933 Chicago World's Fair". She was the 2003 Visiting Faculty Scholar at the International Quilt Study Center.

The Lecture"Recycling and Resourcefulness: Quilts of the 1930s" by Merikay Waldvogel was recorded and is available as a podcast and via streaming video. A written transcript of the presentation is not available.

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Support for this exhibition came from the Nebraska Humanities Council and the The Department of Textiles, Merchandising and Fashion Design, College of Education and Human Sciences, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.