Matrix is Awarded grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for their project: The Quilt Index

April 25, 2022 - Anna Lionas

MSU’s renowned research center, Matrix: Center for Digital Humanities and Social Sciences was awarded a grant from The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The $346,206 grant is for The Quilt Index, a project that consists of thousands of images, stories and knowledge of quilts and their origins from across the world. 

…And a Time to Dance Quilt by Maya Brown Green

Matrix is a research center at MSU that works with libraries, museums, archives and national heritage sites to  preserve and recognize properly historical materials. Their work involves collaboration with many communities and cultures with a heavy focus on preserving African American history and culture.

The grant will fund a multi-institutional project, headquartered at Matrix, to develop an African American, African, and African Diaspora Quilt Studies Digital Resource, nested in the Quilt Index,

The Quilt Index was launched in 2003 and has remained an ever-growing digital repository housing a culture of quilts. This collection is supported by a variety of scholars, curators, digital humanists and grants from supportive resources. 

Dean Rehberger is the Director of Matrix as well as an Associate Professor in MSU’s department of History. Dean is very proud of the work that goes on with Matrix, “The Quilt Index gives us a window into the amazing diversity and creativity of cultures.” The grant will allow for the Quilt Index to grow and continue its great legacy.

Scrolling through the Quilt Index website, you’re met with what seems like an endless amount of quilts, ranging from the 1800s to present day. A colorful patchwork detailing thousands of lifetimes. The Quilt Index is very diligent about its data collection, each work is accompanied by comprehensive details dating it and describing who made it. Each heirloom has a story that emulates the wonderful patches of their own beauty.

The grant from NEH will build on the work of Matrix, MSU’s record of scholarship pertaining to African American quilt history, and MSU’s unique quilt and quilt history collections. It will allow for the project to link MSU’s collections to other collections in the U.S. and South Africa. It will also facilitate building additional online resources and tools to increase the use of these collections for research and education.

As Marsha MacDowell, the lead Principal Investigator, explains "this NEH sponsored project will ensure that the stories and work of historically-marginalized quilt artists from African American, African, and African Diaspora communities are preserved and made available for research and teaching. With the help of an international team of artists, curators and collection managers, archivists, and independent scholars, project staff will add data on over 5000 quilts, 54 oral history interviews with artists, and over 100 pieces of ephemera to the Quilt Index (" Mary Atkins is a quiltmaker featured on the Quilt Index.

If you are interested in learning more about The Quilt Index and all the projects going on with MSU’s Matrix check out their website