I’ve walked past the old white building on South Main Street that is home to the Virginia Quilt Museum a countless number of times and always wanted to take a peek inside.With National Quilting Day coming up on March 17th, I thought it would be fitting for my first post of the month to feature the museum’s current traveling exhibition, on display through May 12th.
The museum building itself has as much history as the quilts and artifacts housed inside it. The Warren-Sipe House was built in 1856 for attorney Edward Warren and his wife Virginia Magruder Warren. Soon after the house was built, Warren left to serve as lieutenant in the Confederate Army. In 1864, Warren died in the Battle of the Wilderness.
During the Battle of Gettysburg, the house served as a makeshift hospital because of the overflow of wounded soldiers. There have been sightings of the ghost of a Confederate soldier in the stairwell of the house, supposedly either the ghost of Edward Warren or a young major, Joseph Latimer, that also died there.
After the war, the house was used as a private residence for some time until it was acquired by the state, beginning its evolution from a children’s recreation center to a temporary courthouse, and finally to its current incarnation in 1995 as the Virginia Quilt Museum.
With two traveling exhibits and the museum’s permanent collection, I was able to see a variety of quilting styles including white work counterpanes, more traditional colored quilts, and contemporary interpretations.
The first floor was filled with the “Shenandoah Valley Counterpanes” exhibit. These quilts all date back to the 19th Century, with the oldest being from 1810. The exhibit was made up entirely of white quilts interspersed with quilting artifacts like bobbin wheels, pin cushions, glass darners, and loom reeds.
After climbing the (haunted) staircase, I was immediately greeted with color. The first room housed traditional-looking colored quilts with interesting patterns like ocean waves, Irish chain, and snow crystals. Beyond that, I found my favorite part of the museum- the “Art Under the Microscope” exhibit. The idea behind this exhibit is to take images of biological structures- blood vessels, human skin cells, intestinal surfaces, and parts of the brain, just to name a few– from a microscope and have the artist interpret the image into a quilt. The quilts in this exhibit featured vibrant colors and a variety of materials. Each image was placed next to the piece it inspired to show the transition from photo to quilt. I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself much of a quilt enthusiast, but I absolutely loved this exhibit!
My favorite piece was called “Loch Ness” by Carole Nicholas. The artist interpreted the division of intestinal cells using taffeta, silk chiffon, glass beads, and metallic thread. Although I wasn’t able to take pictures in the museum, I was able to find some images of the exhibit online.
To see the rest of the exhibit, visit the Virginia Quilt Museum through May 12th, Tuesday through Saturday from 10am to 4pm, with admission ranging from $5 to $7. For more information, please visit http://www.vaquiltmuseum.org.
Katina Stevenson is the Promotions Intern for Spring 2012. She is a senior Communication Studies major with a concentration in Public Relations at James Madison University.