“Piece by Piece” exhibit opens at McKissick Museum, showcasing quilts 150 years old

Curator Saddler Taylor shares information about the exhibit with the crowd. Karamie Sullivan photos.

The University of South Carolina’s McKissick Museum held a reception Thursday night, inviting guests to view their newest art exhibit. “Piece by Piece: Quilts from the Permanent Collection,” illustrates the evolution of quilt making traditions over the past 150 years, representing artistic heritages from Europe, Africa and the American South.

Chief Curator of Folklife, Saddler Taylor, entertained the crowd with stories about the history of the pieces on display. “Quilts carry a strong sense of familial intimacy and human connection. It’s strangely ironic that we know so little about many of the makers. This exhibition features beautiful examples of Southern quilts; but more importantly, we want to tell the story of some of the makers,” he said.

There are 14 quilts on display at a time. Currently, the two oldest visible in the exhibit were both made in 1850. In November, a new round will be hung, and then in March, the final round will be displayed. According to Curator of Collections Christian Cicimurri, since the pieces are fragile, it is not wise to leave them exposed and hanging for very long. Additionally, there is not enough room in the exhibit to display the full collection at one time.

Cicimurri personally sewed velcro strips to many of the quilts that were hung onto the carpeted display walls. She joked as she asked the crowd if anyone would like to volunteer to help prepare the next round of quilts for the November display. “I spent many hours during staff meetings sitting front of the quilt while everyone else was at a different table,” she laughed. She stressed the importance of her intricate work to preserve the piece.

Cicimurri pointed out that very few of the quilts hung perfectly flat up against the wall due to the amount of use they’ve experienced over the years. She said if they were used on a bed, or someone pulled one end up around them when sleeping, it stretched the quilt out from its once-perfect rectangular shape.

Piece by Piece is free and open to the public during McKissick’s hours of operation: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. More information can be found at http://www.sc.edu/mckissickmuseum

Categories: Arts & Entertainment, Columbia, Education, Richland County

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