Unidentified Odawa maker (Peshawbestown, Michigan), “Appliqué and Pieced Star of Bethlehem Quilt” (detail), 1900-25. Cotton, 78 x 70 in. Gift of John Wilmerding. 1988-16.


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SHELBURNE, Vt. (January 27, 2021)—Shelburne Museum presents 20 textile masterpieces dating from the first decades of the 1800s to the turn of the 21st century in the newest online exhibition, Pattern & Purpose: American Quilts from Shelburne Museum. The online exhibition opens Thursday, January 28.

Pattern & Purpose explores objects that expand our sense of what art can be, and recognize how invention and discovery can be found in the most familiar of places,” said Associate Curator Katie Wood Kirchhoff who organized the exhibition. “Today, quilt-making is recognized as an art form in its own right, revealing makers’ skills and personal visions from complex geometric designs that would feel at home in a gallery of pop art to delicate and timeless patterns drawn from nature.”

Fascinated by design elements of color, pattern, line, and construction, and eager to recover a quintessentially “American” form of material culture, Shelburne Museum founder Electra Havemeyer Webb (1888–1960) was one of the first to exhibit quilts as works of art in a museum setting. Mrs. Webb established the nucleus of Shelburne’s collection with over 400 historic bedcoverings in the 1950s. Today, Shelburne is known internationally for the exceptional variety and quality of its collection, which is particularly strong in its holdings from 19th-century Vermont and New England.

In celebration of the exhibition the public is invited to a webinar with Kirchhoff and special guests Minnie Wabanimkee, Odawa artist and photographer, from Peshawbestown, Michigan, and Professor of Art and Curator of Folk Arts and Quilt Studies Marsha MacDowell from Michigan State University. The conversation will center on the Odawa bedcover in the museum’s permanent collection. One of at least six identified Odawa quilts created in Peshawbestown, the discussion will include insights from Minnie and Marsha about these distinctive bedcovers. In addition, the guests will highlight The Quilt Index, an incredible digital resource that can be explored online. The webinar is at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 3.

Additional program offerings include a Virtual Quilt Club where participants will learn about quilts featured in the upcoming Pattern & Purpose online exhibition, discover quilting tips and tricks, and create hand or machine quilted coasters.

Pattern & Purpose: American Quilts from Shelburne Museum, opens with a virtual public preview at 6 p.m. on Thursday, January 28, 2021. Live Q&A follows the presentation. To register visit the museum’s website, shelburnemuseum.org

Pattern & Purpose marks the twelfth online exhibition presented by the museum since the COVID-19 pandemic altered operations. While Shelburne Museum is temporarily closed, the museum continues its commitment to deliver the museum experience digitally through new and upcoming online exhibitions, virtual field trips, and public programs.

About Shelburne Museum
Founded in 1947 by pioneering folk art collector Electra Havemeyer Webb (1888–1960), Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, Vermont, is the largest art and history museum in northern New England and Vermont’s foremost public resource for visual art and material culture. The Museum’s 45-acre campus is comprised of 39 buildings including the Pizzagalli Center for Art and Education and Webb Gallery featuring important American paintings by Andrew Wyeth, Winslow Homer, Grandma Moses, John Singleton Copley, and many more. For more information, please visit shelburnemuseum.org.



Caroline Carpenter Smith Persons (Northfield, Vermont, 1835-1902), Applique and Pieced Sunflower Quilt, 1860-80. Cotton, 77 3/4 x 85 1/2 in. Gift of Ethel Smith Washburn. 1987-19. 

The tall sunflowers appliquéd and quilted on this bedcover may have been inspired by the mid-19th-century design vocabulary of the English Arts and Crafts Movement, which was widely known in America through books and magazines. This movement advocated for traditional craftsmanship using high-quality materials, and often emphasized flat or streamlined naturalistic motifs. 

Unidentified maker (Woodlands, Great Lakes), Applique and Pieced Star of Bethlehem Quilt, 1870-75. Cotton, 78 x 70 in. Gift of John Wilmerding. 1988-16.

This quilt, the only bedcover in Shelburne’s collection made by a Native American, combines a central, pieced star pattern with blocks of appliquéd flowers forming the border. Quilting was not an indigenous needlework tradition, but rather was introduced to Native communities via the establishment of Catholic missions and the influx of Euro-American settlers in the Great Lakes region during the 19th century.