By: Jane Przybysz
In studying The Great American Quilt Festival, sponsored by The Museum of American Folk Art and 3M Corporation, I found that quilters and festival sponsors value quilts in different ways and for different reasons. Using interviews with 3M and Museum staff, and evidence drawn from a) festival promotional materials and events, b) the festival program of events, and c) how the festival was organized spatially, I argue that the Museum and 3M value quilts as either aesthetic objects or historical documents of events in American HIS-story, quite apart from the socio-historical realities of the women’s lives. Through interviews with quilters and a discussion of the activities they engaged in at the festival — i.e. the pin-swapping and friendship quilt autographing — I show how quilters value quilts as symbols of a) the power of relationship — of relating to a personal past, to other people, and to themselves in very specific socio-historical context, and b) economic power.