Our Story

The International Quilt Museum is home to the world's largest publicly held quilt collection. With objects from more than 65 countries and dating from the 1600s to today, we aim to collect and exhibit works that represent quilts and quiltmaking traditions from around the world and throughout history.

Here is a brief look at our history:

1997: The International Quilt Study Center was established in June 1997 at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln when native Nebraskans Ardis and Robert James donated nearly 1,000 quilts to the University. The Jameses’ attention came to UNL after a meeting with Dr. Patricia Crews, UNL Professor of Textiles and founding director of the museum, and Sara Rhodes Dillow, an internationally recognized quiltmaker, collector and author, and first President of the Nebraska State Quilt Guild.

1997-2007: During the center’s early years, the Ardis and Robert James Collection of Antique and Contemporary Quilts was stored in a renovated climate-controlled space in the Home Economics Building on UNL’s East Campus. The study center used these quilts—along with other additions to the collection—to create exhibitions displayed in galleries on campus and around the world.

2008: The study center moved to a 37,000-square-foot building with three exhibition galleries and state-of-the-art textiles storage. The museum was built using private funding received through the University of Nebraska Foundation, including a lead gift from the James family. More than 130 quilt guilds and quilt organizations in three other countries provided gifts for the building's construction. Robert A.M. Stern Architects of New York, with Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture of Omaha, were selected out of more than 120 firms to design the building. The design is a metaphor for quilts—the glass windows represent the front of a quilt, the galleries are the batting and the offices make up the back of a quilt. The Reception Hall is shaped like the eye of a needle. 

2009: The museum received LEED Silver Rating for its environmentally sustainable building in April 2009.

2013: The museum received accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums. This is the highest national recognition a museum can receive.

2015: The museum opened a 13,000-square-foot expansion in June 2015. The new addition doubled the museum’s gallery and storage space. The expansion was made possible by a gift from the Robert and Ardis James Foundation as part of the University of Nebraska Foundation’s Campaign for Nebraska.

2019: The museum officially changed its name to the International Quilt Museum.

The museum holds memberships with the American Alliance of Museums and Association of Academic Museums and Galleries. We enjoy a partnership with the North American Reciprocal Museum Association (NARM) and Blue Star Museums, honoring active members of our military and their families with free admission between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Click here if you would like to learn more about the museum's architecture and garden.