The Quilt Index Relaunches and Expands Its Collection

This past October 2018, a new iteration of the Quilt Index, a digital repository of thousands of images, stories, and information about quilts and their makers drawn from hundreds of public and private collections around the world, was launched. Already a major digital humanities resource, this new version aims to significantly strengthen and expand the use of quilt-related data in research and teaching.

The new Quilt Index includes a completely updated visual presentation, more pathways to connect data on individual quilts, collections, artists, stories, and access to four of the original Quilt Index collections plus one new collection.

Originally launched in 2003, the content and tools for users of the Quilt Index has been continually expanded. As of September 2018, the Index holds freely-accessible data on over 70,000 quilts and artists drawn from collections of hundreds of museums, numerous documentation projects, and many private collections around the world. Though the new version is live, the original version will remain online and provide users with access to the original collections while the next two years are spent migrating the historical collections to the new Quilt Index.

“The new iteration of the Quilt Index results from the amazing work—over a period of five years—of a multi-disciplinary group of MSU students, faculty, and staff with input from diverse citizen scholars and stakeholders around the world,” said MSU Museum Curator of Art History and Visual Culture and Department of Art, Art History, and Design Professor Marsha MacDowell. “As we continue to migrate historical data to and add new tools and collections to this new site we are also counting on feedback from users to refine this major research and education resource.”

The new iteration of the Quilt Index results from the amazing work—over a period of five years—of a multi-disciplinary group of MSU students, faculty, and staff with input from diverse citizen scholars and stakeholders around the world.


Historically, quilts have been made in communities around the world by individuals to express personal ideas and experiences, to commemorate significant events and activities, to honor individuals, to generate income, to advocate and educate about issues, as a source of health and wellbeing, to use as interior decoration, and, of course, to simply provide physical warmth and comfort. The making of quilts continues today and millions of individuals are engaged in some aspect of the production and use of this widespread form of material culture.

An exciting additional new feature—The Quilt Legacy Project—allows individuals to join the Quilt Index and create pages to document the work of artists, collectors, and others who have played roles in the quilt world. The new format opens up opportunities for adding dedicated pages for artists, collections, stories, research projects, essays, and more.

This big data set has already provided the foundation for studies representing a broad swath of disciplinary interests. With this new iteration, it is hoped that the Index will strengthen research and teaching based on an art form that has historically had and continues to have millions of practitioners.

An image from the Quilt Index’s artist page that features prominent quiltmakers

The Quilt Index is foundational to the work at Matrix, the Center for Digital Humanities and Social Sciences at Michigan State University.

“It has never been more important to preserve and make accessible the cultural heritage and works of art created by women and diverse communities around the globe,” said Matrix Director and Associate Professor of History Dr. Dean Rehberger.

The Quilt Index team seeks feedback from the public in regards to the new version of The Quilt in an effort to enhance user experiences and incorporate new work. For more information about adding collections and other resources or creating a Legacy page, contact Beth Donaldson, Quilt Index Coordinator ( or Marsha MacDowell, Director of the Quilt Index (


The Quilt Index is headquartered at Michigan State University (Matrix: Center for Digital Humanities and Social Sciences and the MSU Museum). Funding and in-kind support for the Quilt Index upgrade has been provided, in part, by the Robert and Ardis James Foundation, Salser Family Foundation, H. Claire Vlasin Quilt Preservation Endowment, Raymond Vlasin, Michigan State University, Sunshine State Quilters Association, and other generous individuals.