Tucked away on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s East Campus, the International Quilt Museum boasts the world’s largest quilt collection. Numbered in the thousands, quilts in the collection date from the 1600s to today and everything in between.
While visitors may see quilts they may recognize from their own life, there’s plenty more to uncover. The IQM has an extensive collection of works made from around the world. Some of the most notable international collections include pieces made in China, India, Japan, and several Central Asian countries. The museum also has a collection of art quilts, that is quilts that were made to go on gallery walls instead of on the bed.
The museum also regularly exhibits quilts from other collections. Notably in 2018, the museum featured an exhibition of quilts from the private collection of Emmy Award-winning documentarian Ken Burns.
As part of the University of Nebraska, the museum also focuses on studying the quilts and telling their stories. One of the most famous pieces in the museum’s collection is known as the Reconciliation Quilt. Made by Lucinda Ward Honstain in 1867 in Brooklyn, New York, the album quilt documents her life in the period following the Civil War. Until 2019, the quilt held the record for the highest price for a quilt at auction at Southeby’s in 1991.
Due to care and preservation considerations, quilts are displayed for a maximum of one year out of every ten. But you can sometimes sneak a glimpse of rare gems in the collection when quilt curators are re-folding and inspecting quilts in the Byron and Sara Rhodes Dillow Work Room, which has an observation window.
The building itself is a tribute to quilts. The glass windows on the front are meant to look like the top of a quilt. The brick exterior is designed with quilt block designs. And the large glass-walled reception hall is in the shape of the eye of a needle. If you visit during blooming season, the museum’s gardens will showcase native Nebraska flowers and grasses in the design of a quilt.
Know Before You Go
The museum is open Tuesday-Saturday, but check the website before visiting for hours and admission.