March 13 2013 12:00 AM

“Patterns of Inquiry” exhibit stitches together a different view of quilts

Tuesday, June 26 — And you thought quilts were just a blanket your grandmother made.

One of the newest exhibits at the Michigan State University Museum, “Patterns of Inquiry: Quilts in Research and Education,” opened last week, giving visitors a fresh look at an American tradition that has spread around the world: quilting. Click here for a sampling of some of the quilts on display in the exhibit.

Quilting started in the United States in the mid-18th century and the practice has close ties with the development of American culture, said Mary Worrall, the exhibit curator. She said the handful of quilts in the exhibit is from the museum’s growing collection of 700 quilts and range from the mid-19th century up to 2011.

Worrall said over the course of history, quilts have been stitched together for gifts as well as for creative and political expression. She said formal research into quilting began in the 1970’s with the growth in women’s studies. The exhibit highlights the use of quilts in research and as educational tools.

The quilts in the museum collection and those on display have been used by elementary and college history programs to study sourcing and artifacts, Worrall said.

“When you see the object in person it opens up a discussion in a different way than with written material,” she said. “You can ask the students about quilts in their creates a tie with something that they’re familiar with and that may have a personal connection.”

Themes of political and social justice are also represented in many of the quilts on display. Images of President Barack Obama, Rosa Parks, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the earthquake in Haiti adorn several of the quilts. The “strong visuals” create a new avenue to open dialog amongst students, Worrall said.

Other areas of study featured in the exhibit include, visual recognition, health and math.

The exhibit is free and is open through September 23 during regular MSU museum hours.

MSU Museum hours:

M-F: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Sat: 10 a.m to 5 p.m.

Sun: 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.