What a difference a week makes!
Last week I was distributing quilts to tornado survivors, and visiting neighborhoods that were wiped off the map by the big twister.
This weekend I am in Washington DC, visiting the DAR Museum, and participating in the Not Fade Away conference in Herndon VA. (...and dripping from the heat and humidity!)
Friday I had a very special treat. I had an invitation to have a private tour at the DAR (Daughters of the Revolution) Museum which is about a block away from the White House. My tour guide was the curator of the Quilts and Textile department, and I felt very lucky to have a private session in the archives (temperature and humidity controlled room in the basement) to view several historic quilts that are being prepared for an exhibit in 2014.
Alden also took me upstairs to see the beautiful architecture of the huge library, and the individual state rooms with special state quilts. She also gave me a lengthy explanation of the process of preparing garments for the current costume exhibit "Fashioning the New Woman: 1890 - 1925".
We had lunch next door in the Red Cross building, and talked some more about how to date garments and textiles. She cut her textile dating chops when she was an intern at the Smithsonian, and now she can look at a historic quilt or vintage garment, and guess the year it was made. We discussed how every year or two there would be a change in the fashions, that would make it easy to date the garment by the sleeve shape, bustle, draping, etc. What were trends 100-200 years ago, have become history.
I pointed out that the trends we are making today, will also be documented textile history some day in the future. We talked about how we should be documenting quilts today, so they will be understood 100 years from now. She also told me that laser-printed labels and photos in quilts are already starting to fade, and it is such a shame that information is fast disappearing. She complained about quilts that had initials instead of full names sewn on the back. She complained about quilts that said "Aunt Bessie's Quilt" instead of the full name.
So my message for all of you is - make sure you sign your quilts with permanent ink or stitching so there will be no doubt as to the quilt's maker, and the year it was made. Someone in the future will treasure your quilt and be fascinated with the history of the quilt you've constructed so lovingly and carefully.
My mom and I hired a genealogy detective to research our distant ancestors, and she recently informed us that we'd be eligible to join the DAR. So the timing of this museum visit was just perfect! We have the documentation of a "patriot" ancestor who was in the army during the Revolution, which came as a surprise!