Explore Ohio’s Rich History in the Kent State University Museum’s “Ohio Quilts” Exhibition
The Kent State University Museum’s newest exhibition, “Ohio Quilts,” which is now open through April 12, 2020, features an eclectic group of historical quilts that in many ways reflects the history of Ohio dating back to the early 19th century.
This exhibition assembles quilts reflecting a variety of techniques, including appliqué, piecework, crazy quilts, whitework and embroidery. These different styles represent evolving taste but also reflect changes in technology, women’s lives and forms of expression throughout Ohio’s history. A broad range of designs are on display, from designs featuring heavy Victorian-era tastes with exuberant colors to Amish-style quilts that reflect an adherence of strict rules and reject the whims of fashion to everything in between.
Quiltmaking in Ohio took off around the middle of the 19th century after improvements in textile and thread production made materials accessible and increasingly affordable. Inventions such as the power loom and cylinder printing ultimately led to the production of large quantities of printed cotton. Additionally, changes in women’s fashion led to growth in the creation of decorative quilts, and by the 1860s, women’s clothing was increasingly shaped from pieces of cloth rather than utilizing the entire width of the fabric. The widespread adoption of sewing machines by the end of the century also made the creation of clothing less time consuming and freed up time for making quilts.
One of the highlights of the exhibition is a quilt attributed to dressmaker Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley, who worked for the wives of many prominent politicians, including Mary Todd Lincoln. The quilt is crafted together from pieces of dress fabric which appear to be from the 1860s. Keckley lived in Ohio when she served on the faculty of Wilberforce University.
About the Kent State University Museum
The Kent State University Museum is located at 515 Hilltop Drive, at the corner of East Main Street and South Lincoln Street in Kent, Ohio. It features more than 30,000 pieces in its collection, amassed from many generous donors. The museum is open to the public on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thursday from 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; and Sunday from noon-4 p.m. Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and $4 for children ages 5-17. The museum is free for children age 5 and under and for those with a Kent State ID. Sunday admission is free for all ages. Parking is free for all museum attendees. Patrons should use the allotted museum spaces in the Rockwell Hall parking lot. For more information, please call 330-672-3450 or visit www.kent.edu/museum.
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