In this travelling exhibition, the Michigan State University Museum showcases the textile collections of the late Cuesta Benberry, one of the twentieth-century’s pioneers of research on American quiltmaking and the forerunner of research on African American quiltmaking.
“Unpacking Collections: The Legacy of Cuesta Benberry, an African American Quilt Scholar” explores the production and meaning of collections through this collection acquired by the MSU Museum.
“Every collection reflects a point of view, a passion, a mindful purpose of the collector who made it,” explains Marsha MacDowell, MSU Museum curator of folk arts and MSU professor of art and art history. “In literally unpacking a scholar’s collection, a museum or an archive has a responsibility to care for, research, interpret, and make accessible the contents of the collection. It is when a collection its parts and its whole is figuratively unpacked, that we can learn more about the scholar and the subjects they researched.”
The Cuesta Benberry African and African American Quilt and Quilt History Collections contains 52 quilts (including family quilts and the only one Benberry actually made), notebooks, quilt kits and patterns, and scores of notes and clippings related to quiltmakers, quilts, and quilt exhibitions. A founder of the American Quilt Study Group in 1980, Benberry was also the author of several books about quilt history, including Always There: The African American Presence in American Quilts and A Piece of My Soul: Quilts by Black Arkansans.
Exhibition overview from museum website