The Quilt Index – Future directions

I grew up in a family of quilters. From the baby quilts my mom and great grandmother made me to the quilt my aunt made for my graduation that currently covers my bed, I’ve always been surrounded by them. Although I myself am not a quilter (much to my family’s dismay), I still find the process, patterns and stories behind these intricate blankets interesting. For these reasons, I can spend hours looking through quilts on The Quilt Index.

I was first exposed to The Quilt Index when my aunt asked me to help record oral histories at one of her quilt documentations. These documentations are where people bring in their quilts to have them photographed and analyzed. Volunteers looked at the technique, construction, colors and type of fabrics used. I recorded the history of the quilt and the quilt maker. Contributing organizations upload all this information onto The Quilt Index for researchers to easily navigate.

The Quilt Index has eight goals to expand the site, which I would like to analyze the possible outcomes of three. One is to incorporate a map that shows where the quilts were made and where the quilt makers were born and lived. How would visualizing this information change the way we look at quilt making? Do the oral histories of quilt makers who grew up in the same area show any similarities? I expect that Morritti’s Graphs, Maps and Trees will be a useful read for looking at quilts through maps.

Another idea is to eliminate the middle man and allow the public to add their own quilt photos and information to the site. Is it necessary for these historical organizations and associations to be the only ones submitting material to The Quilt Index? What are the pros and cons of allowing the public to directly upload material? The crowdsourcing readings will be useful for looking at this idea.

The last goal is to open The Quilt Index model up to different sources other than quilts, like cross-stitch samplers or baskets. How would these sources tell us new information about their makers and where they were made?  How can The Quilt Index model be used more efficiently to encourage research in unconventional primary sources?

Analyzing these three ideas to expand The Quilt Index provides an opportunity to reflect on how the site has already utilized technology for history, as well as think about how it can continue to stretch these boundaries in the future.

Project Ideas – Modany

  1. A site to present the oral histories I recorded from the oral history seminar class about a small steel town in western Pennsylvania for the Beaver County Historical Research and Landmarks Foundation (BCHRLF). The site would include the audio from the interviews, photos and profiles of the interviewees, photos of the town today and hopefully photos of the town in its steel heyday.
  2. An analysis of www.quiltindex.org – how it promotes history, provides primary sources and differs from sites that present other primary sources, like documents.
  3. Something with the National Museum of American History and social media outreach.
  4. Help the BCHRLF with a project to put a photo collection of tombstones online to aid with genealogy searches.