Tucked inside a 19th Century brick bank building, the New England Quilt Museum holds a treasure of quilts. Just 50 km (30 miles) north of Boston, USA. this tiny gem is part of Lowell’s textile and art Canalway Cultural District, which includes the Lowell National Historic Park, art galleries and studios and other cultural venues.
Founded in 1987, the Museum’s collection includes quilts from 1850 to contemporary art quilts. Not every quilts is on display at all times. After all, space and textile conservation policies shape display possibilities. Instead, the Museum creates an intriguing patchwork of exhibits that highlight the history and breadth of traditional bed and art quilts.
Director Nora Burchfield studied visitor trends to Lowell, and these shape the exhibit calendar, which is curated by Pam Weeks. Summer tourists and festival goers lead into the autumn leaf peeping travelers. In the winter, the dedicated quilt aficionados can count on a focus on art quilters and New England based exhibits. Nora believes that museums have a critical role in cultural conversations, and she seeks to create that setting with lectures and events tied to the exhibits.
“The Museum’s mission is to educate and inspire,” Pam explains. For Pam, the Museum has done just that. She was a docent in the Museum’s early years. As a member, she benefitted from the library resources and was able to refer to the collection as she worked on her appraiser certification. The collection continues to inform her research.
As Museum curator, Pam says, “I’ve got the best job in the world.”
As Pam trained in museum studies, she was taught that a good curator suggests with minimal direction, which lets the visitor consider and then interpret with their own frame of reference. This approach allows the Museum to bring exhibits that encourage the conversations about quilts and the various roles they play in society today.
A motivated and dedicated volunteer base staffs the library and many aspects of the visitor facing services. Their enthusiasm shines through and they are happy to share their experience and a smile.
This is the last week of a wonderful exhibit In Praise of Silk, which includes antique and contemporary quilts with silk and clothing from the University of New Hampshire Irma Bowen Textile Collection. Just in time for the Lowell Summer Celebration, the Museum will unveil the 2019 “Best of New England Quilt Guilds” exhibit in addition to the American Quilt Study Group’s Challenge Exhibit on Basket Quilts.
From August 7 to September 8, the Lowell Summer Celebration puts quilts in the spotlight throughout the City. Five venues will feature quilts and fiber art, with many opening receptions being held on August 10.
After enjoying the exhibits, don’t forget to leave time for the Museum’s Library. Books with topics related to the exhibits are on display, and many of the books can be checked out by members. An ever changing selection of used quilting and textile books are available for sale at great prices.
The Museum’s gift store features original work by quilters and fiber artists as well as fabric and other gifts.
If your U.S. travels take you to New England, the New England Quilt Museum and Lowell are a must stop for every fiber art and quilt lover.
“In Praise of Silk” – Pictures from the New England Quilt Museum‘s FB page