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The Library of Congress > Teachers > Classroom Materials > Collection Connections > Quilts and Quiltmaking in America

[Detail] 1994 Judges' Choice Winner; Susan's Fan.

Historical Analysis and Interpretation

This collection can be used to study three different types of analysis and interpretation. First, many of the Lands' End quilts such as these, have notes that explain the quilters' intentions and can help one learn to recognize volition and meaning in visual work. Refer students to some of these quilts and ask them to explain how the quilter tried to express certain ideas or fulfill certain goals through her quilt. Then, ask students to look at some quilts without notes and attempt an interpretation of what the quilter was trying to communicate or accomplish.

In addition to the creator's intentions, a quilt can also express information about the time period in which it was made. Students can learn to access this information with the following questions:

  • What themes or topics recur in the Lands' End quilts and notes?
  • What does this suggest about what people were concerned with at the time these quilts were made?
  • What do the materials, techniques, and subject matter suggest about America at this time, its economy, politics, culture, and arts community?
  • What do the materials, techniques, and subject matter of the Blue Ridge quilts suggest about their creators and the time period in which they lived?

Finally, the special presentation, Speaking of Quilts: Voices from the Late 20th Century offers an interpretation of the entire collection. How does this interpretation suggest we look at and understand the collection's materials? Do you agree with this interpretation? How else might one interpret this collection? In what ways is the collection itself an interpretation of its materials? How else might you have presented these materials?