I was all set to continue the open access discussion with a look at the Los Angeles County Museum of Arts. They have more than 20,000 images available, with hundreds of quilts from 16th century on to the 21st century. The majority of these quilt images are available for free use in either publication quality or presentation quality. However in the middle of my exploration of these quilt images came several revelations.
For those who have a bias toward the east coast for quilts, you may be astonished to see the early indigo resist quilt, not only one, but yes a matched set. The quilt originated in Connecticut, but clearly has found a home at LACMA. LACMA houses the Betty Horton Collection from a woman who wanted a comprehensive collection of American and European quilts. In 1968 her gift of 49 quilts to the Museum of Arts established the American Quilt Research Center.
The LACMA collection of quilts has grown significantly beyond the Betty Horton Collection, many with provenance and details. The website lists the quilt artists to the side, allowing you to search by artist or century or fabric type. Which made me wonder about who had assembled this collection and cared for it. At the same time a colleague was attempting to access information from LACMA and ultimately contacted the former Curator Sandi Fox.
Sandi Fox had assembled the collection by visiting quilt guilds, actively seeking information and quilts. Once the quilt was in the Museum, she would research and write, as well as share findings with others interested in quilt history. Her work resulted in multiple publications still in use and admired by many. “Quilts, The Gathering and the Gift,” 1987 is available online for free as a pdf at this link, and her other many books are still available online. All of this led to the larger question; as a quilt community, how are we documenting, treasuring, and saving the knowledge from our predecessors who have done much to advance quilt history knowledge?