The Quilt Index: From Preservation and Access to Co-Creation of Knowledge

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Marsha MacDowell
Mary Worrall
Amanda Sikarskie
Justine Richardson


Quilts are resources for inquiry and instruction for many disciplines, foci for the development of private and public collections, and, increasingly, a visual expressive media that has meaning for makers, owners, and users. The rise of the Internet and the development of cyber-infrastructures have created the capacity to build and use digital quilt resources and to foster networks among quilt makers, owners, and users. This article describes the development of The Quilt Index (, a digital repository of quilt and quilt-related resources, and situates the Index in the landscape of new directions for material culture study, a landscape in which knowledge and resources are now being co-created by those who find meaning in quilts as data. It suggests that making data more accessible, providing diverse tools for use of that data, co-creating knowledge, and providing structured portals for contributed knowledge is reflecting changes in how traditional culture is documented, understood, and used.


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How to Cite
MacDowell, M., Worrall, M., Sikarskie, A., & Richardson, J. (2011). The Quilt Index: From Preservation and Access to Co-Creation of Knowledge. New Directions in Folklore, 9(1/2), 8–40. Retrieved from
Author Biographies

Marsha MacDowell, Michigan State University

Marsha MacDowell is Curator of Folk Arts at the MSU Museum and Professor of Art and Art History.  She has published extensively on American material culture (with an emphasis on Michigan, Native American, and African-American quiltmaking traditions) and curated numerous regional and national exhibitions.  MacDowell directs the activities of the Great Lakes Quilt Center at MSU Museum; is a founding board member of the Alliance for American Quilts; co-editor of H-Quilts, an online quilt scholarship discussion list; and is the former president of American Quilt Study Group.

Mary Worrall, Michigan State University Museum

Mary Worrall is an Assistant Curator of Folk Arts at the MSU Museum and has a background in Art History and Public History.  She specializes in textile history, serves on the Board of the American Quilt Study Group and Alliance for American Quilts, and also is a quilt maker.

Amanda Sikarskie, Western Michigan University

Amanda Sikarskie is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Public History program at Western Michigan University.  She received her Ph.D. in American Studies from Michigan State University in 2011.  For the three years leading up to her doctorate, Amanda worked at the Quilt Index doing project development, as well as managing the project’s social media campaign.  She has presented extensively on museum social media.

Justine Richardson, Michigan State University MATRIX

Justine Richardson is an Educational Media Specialist at MATRIX.  With a background in Art History, American Studies, and Humanities Computing, she has written on gender and technology issues, and on the development and coordination of distributed and collaborative online arts and humanities projects.