Explorations in Quilting: Check Out These American Quilt Museums

Watercolor image of the United States

Hit the road to explore inspiration! There’s nothing like dropping into a quilt museum and then hitting the local fabric shops to get those creative juices flowing!

By no means comprehensive, this list includes personal favorites, as well as quilt museums of international renown. All of these are destinations in their own right.

International Quilt Study Center and Museum

Lincoln, NE
An extension of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the IQSC has made Lincoln, Nebraska, an undisputed quilting locus. It hosts the largest public collection of quilts in the world, and aims to “celebrate the cultural and artistic significance of quilts.” Lose yourself for the day at this museum, and leave inspired!

Iowa Quilt Museum

Winterset, IA
Based in Fons & Porter’s hometown of Winterset, Iowa (Marianne Fons sits on the board, in fact!), this museum was founded in 2016. The rotating exhibits showcase contemporary artists or historical collections, in addition to educational programs and lectures. A visit to Pieceworks, the quilt shop next door which took over our former offices, rounds out the quilt day in Winterset!

American Pie, a quilt by Marianne Fons, was exhibited at the Iowa Quilt Museum as part of a ‘Waste Not, Want Not’ exhibit in October 2018.

American Pie, a quilt by Marianne Fons, was exhibited at the Iowa Quilt Museum as part of a ‘Waste Not, Want Not’ exhibit in October 2018.

Visions Art Museum

San Diego CA
Founded in 1985, Visions Art Museum is dedicated to contemporary quilts. Leaning more art quilt than traditional, the museum features more than 20 exhibitions per year, often presenting internationally acclaimed quilts and prestigious show winners. If you’re visiting San Diego, this museum in the arts district at Liberty Station is well worth the visit.

Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum

Golden, CO
Located right down the street from our offices in Golden, Colorado, the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum was the brainchild of Eugenia Mitchell, a longtime resident with a passion for quilts. In addition to changing exhibits quarterly (from historical touchstones to cutting-edge modern quilts), the museum offers tailored tours and educational programs for adults and youth. There is also the Sandra Dallas Library, which boasts 6,000 volumes of quilting lore.

Shelburne Museum

Shelburne, VT
The Shelburne Museum in Vermont is in a league of its own. One of the first—if not the first—museums to collect and display quilts, the Shelburne curates exhibits pertaining to American history, art, and design, especially folk and decorative arts. Founded in 1947 by Mrs. Electra Havemeyer Webb, the museum evolved into a village of antique buildings transported from across New England to the museum grounds. The buildings, from barns to a jail to a steamboat, house the incredibly vast and varied collections. The extensive quilt collection is world-renowned for its quality and range.

Quilter’s Hall of Fame

Marion, IN
The primary mission of the Quilter’s Hall of Fame, based in Marion, Indiana, is to “celebrate quilting as an art form, by honoring the lives and accomplishments of those people who have made outstanding contributions to the world of quilting.” To that end, they sponsor National Quilting Day, maintain an extensive collection of quilts, host exhibitions many of which honor the inductees. With the induction of Marianne Fons and Liz Porter in July 2019, we can promise you’ll like what you see!

New England Quilt Museum

Lowell, MA
Based in Lowell, Massachusetts, the textile hub of 19th century America, the exhibits at this quilt museum include art quilting, regional quilts, highlights from independent collections, and themed displays of historical quilts. From the nation’s earliest days to the present, this quilt museum focuses not only on the quilt, but on stories of quiltmaking as well.

National Quilt Museum

Paducah, KY
Paducah, Kentucky prides itself on being an art town, and was named a UNESCO Creative City in 2013. The centerpiece of Paducah’s creative culture is without a doubt quilting. Twice a year (in April and September), the entire town goes quilt-crazy during Quilt Week, but the crown jewel—the National Quilt Museum, is open year-round.

Mountain Heritage Center

Cullowhee, NC
About an hour outside of Asheville, North Carolina, the Mountain Heritage Center is an extension of Western Carolina University and interprets Appalachian culture. One of the few “non-quilt” museums on this list, we felt it was worth including because quilting is so prevalent in Appalachian history that the collections and exhibits are often very quilt-focused or themed, and are often extraordinary.

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