Historic Quilts Go On Exhibit In New York City

The Park Avenue Armory in New York is now the home to the largest display of quilts ever presented under one roof in New York City.

The exhibition features 650 red and white quilts from the personal collection of Joanna Rose.

The floor-to-ceiling installation goes as high as 45 feet into the air inside of the Armory's eight-story high Wade Thompson Drill Hall.

[Tom Hennes, Principal For Thinc Design]:

"We wanted the quilts themselves to form the architecture of the exhibit. We didn't feel we needed any exhibit architecture really the quilts form their own statement about themselves and so with these minimal materials the sort of humble materials of cardboard and cable we wanted to create something grand that really expressed the essence of the creativity and energy of quilts and the people who make them.”

Guest curator Elizabeth Warren said Rose had been collecting quilts for over 50 years.

[Elizabeth Warren, Guest Curator]:

"When her husband asked her what she liked for her birthday she said something I'd never seen before. She wanted to see all of her red and white quilts in one place at one time. And she wanted it to be free, a gift to the public.”

The special thing about this assortment is not only the amount of red and white textiles but also the fact that no two are exactly alike.

However, this can also make it difficult to properly research their history.

[Elizabeth Warren, Guest Curator]:

"As a textile curator you date a quilt by looking at the fabrics in it when the fabrics are all red and white it gets a little bit harder, but there are different styles, there's different quilting techniques, there's different patterns that become popular over time and most popular for red and white quilts was the period between about 1880 and 1910, 1920.”

The family has also decided to donate 50 quilts to the museum to be on display full time at the American Folk Art Museum.

Warren's favorite item in the collection has been dubbed the bowtie quilt.

[Elizabeth Warren, Guest Curator]:

“Every time I look at it I see it differently. So if you look at it and look at the red in the quilt it looks like a variation of the bowtie pattern. I tell people close your eyes, step back, open your eyes again and only look at the white and then you see a fleur de lis motif. So I don't know how the quilt maker envisioned this. I can't for the life of me figure out how she did it but someone with an incredible mind and incredible talent put this quilt together."

A quilt with the date 1856 is thought to be the oldest one in the collection.

The exhibition will be open from March 25-30.