Mary Barton Quilt collection on display at Historical Museum
Iowa native became a world-renowned expert on quilts and quilting

For immediate release October 3, 2008


Contact: Jeff Morgan,, (515) 281-3858

(DES MOINES) – The State Historical Museum’s world-renowned Mary Barton Quilt Collection is on display in conjunction with the American Quilter’s Society Quilt Expo set for Oct. 8-11, 2008, in Des Moines.

“Patterns for Learning: The Mary Barton Quilt Research Collection” exhibit is on display now through Oct. 26, 2008, at the State Historical Museum, 600 E. Locust Street in Des Moines. Hours are 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday and Noon-4:30 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free and open to the public. Call 515-281-5111 for more information. “Patterns for Learning” is a sanctioned event for the American Quilter’s Society Quilt Expo.

“Mary Barton was a native of Iowa who became one of the world’s foremost experts on quilts, patterns and other issues that impacted women in the 19th and 20th centuries,” Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs Director Cyndi Pederson said. “We are very pleased to be working in partnership with the American Quilter’s Society in making this collection available to their participants and to the public at large.”

Between 1987 and 2001, Barton donated more than 1,500 items to the State Historical Museum. Most of these items relate to her work as an amateur historian, documenting the life and times of 19th century/early 20th century quilting women.

“Patterns for Learning” features Mary Barton’s quilt sample notebooks, fashion print collection, catalogs and a large number of her quilt study panels, clothing collection and quilts, including the Mary Barton Heritage Quilt, which was voted one of the 20th century’s Best American Quilts and exhibited at the 1999 International Quilting Show.

As a whole, the Mary Barton Quilt Collection presents a microcosm of quilting history from about 1840 to the present day.

Starting with the oldest quilt in the collection – a LeMoyne Star, circ. 1840s – and continuing through a plethora of quilting periodicals, one can see how quilting fell in and out of favor, changing back and forth from a necessary skill to a leisure-time activity in accordance with the times.

While the focus of the Barton Collection is on quilts, it encompasses the entire “women’s sphere” of the late 19th and 20th centuries. Not just interested in the finished textiles, Barton assembled a world-class collection of materials and documentation representing influences brought to bear on 19th and 20th century women.

The materials explain the quilting woman – what she read, what she wore, her choices in fabric and pattern, the demands on her time and how those demands changed with improvements in her lifestyle.


 The State Historical Society of Iowa is a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, and is a trustee of Iowa’s historical legacy and an advocate for understanding Iowa’s past. It identifies, records, collects, preserves, manages and provides access to Iowa’s historical resources. Its dual mission of preservation and education serves Iowans of all ages, conducts and stimulates research, disseminates information, and encourages and supports historical preservation and education efforts of others throughout the state. Visit or call 515-281-5111 for more information.

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