Week 9: Consulting the Experts

I reached out to a number of textile experts and had a couple of lovely conversations that were very productive for directing my focus and helping clarify some things I was unsure about. As three of her books sit on my desk, it seemed natural to reach out to Brabara Brackman. I wrote her at the email address I found on her blog and she replied with her personal email address. I sent her a much too long list of questions and I hope to hear back soon. I also scheduled a phone call with Carolyn Ducey, curator of the International Quilt Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska. Dr. Ducey looked at some images of the quilt I sent her and answered some of the questions I had about fabric analysis.

One of the most significant things I struggled with was reading between the lines. In particular, there was a single piece of teal fabric in the very center of the quilt and, if I ignored my prior assumptions that the quilt predated 1850, I found that it dated to the 1890s. I asked her how to approach backing up a “hunch,” and what place outliers like this might have in the difficult, often subjective area of dating. She gave me her opinion that the piece was not likely as late as I believed, and that, if it didn’t seem right, it probably wasn’t. The key is to back it up with comparative study, not just textbook definitions.

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