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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 Issue-Analysis and Decision-Making

The quilting revival occurred at the same time as what cultural critics have identified as a national heritage movement, or mood of nostalgia, in the late twentieth century. This movement expressed a renewed interest in American history and traditions in the mass commercialization of them. This commercialization took a variety of forms, from the sale of collectibles to history-related tourism and entertainment.

Cultural critics have suggested possible causes of this movement. One idea is that people of the late twentieth century were attempting, through this commercialization, to create the meaningful connections with the past that they lacked in an age of rapid change. A second idea is that people were reacting against industrialization and idealizing the pre-industrial era as a simpler time. Consequences of the movement include, on the one hand, an increased interest in and accessibility to history and, on the other hand, an oversimplification and vulgarization of it.

Examining the Lands' End materials with the following questions, students can determine whether they think the quilting revival might have been part of this movement and form their own opinions about representations of history.

  • Are many of the Lands' End quilts about history, heritage, or tradition? What can you find out by searching on these words?
  • Do you think quilts have become a form of the commercialization of history and tradition? What do the quilters' motivations tell you about this?
  • Do you find evidence in the quilters' notes that either of the two possible causes mentioned above motivated or influenced them?
  • Do you feel that the Lands' End quilts reflect an oversimplification or vulgarization of history? Why or why not?
  • What do you think are the pros and cons of commercializing history?
  • Why might quilting be such a popular medium for expressing ideas about history and tradition? What other topics are widely represented in the quilts?