Here at the Quilt Alliance, one of the best parts of our jobs is hearing from people who have incredible quilt stories to share. Often, these stories are about the quilts they have made–stories straight from the maker about the joy and work of quiltmaking. But we also love hearing stories about how quilts have impacted communities.
One of the reasons the Quilt Alliance founded the Go Tell It at the Quilt Show! project in 2012 was to capture the stories happening all around us that did not quite fit the mold of our Quilters’ S.O.S. – Save Our Stories (QSOS) oral history project.
QSOS was launched in 1999 to record the history of today’s quiltmakers in their own voice. Interviewees were invited by volunteers to share a broad picture of their life as a quiltmaker in a 30-40 minute interview recorded on audio cassette or digital audio. In the twenty years since QSOS was founded, over 1,200 interviews were documented and are now archived in the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. A small sample of the collection is now available with transcripts, indexed descriptions and full audio here: qsos.quiltalliance.org/gallery. With support from the quilting community, the entire QSOS collection will be available for listening, searching and browsing on the new site by the end of 2020. Find out how you can sponsor a QSOS interview and ensure its timely transitioned to the new site.
In contrast, Go Tell It! is a video documentation project designed to capture the stories of quilt lovers where they gather. Because one does not need to be a quiltmaker to participate in this project, we have been able to gather stories about quilts from family members, collectors, guilds, historians, curators, industry leaders and people who own and love quilts. “Tellers” are sometimes the maker of the quilt they share in their video recording, but just as often, the telling is done by someone else connected to the quilt. The age, style, genre, purpose, size, and origin of the quilts shared in Go Tell It! videos run the gamut from antique crazy quilts to award-winning modern quilts to quilts made for social causes. At QuiltCon 2017, Quilt Alliance staffer Emma Parker recorded three Go Tell It! videos that featured three members of the Orlando Modern Quilt Guild talking about their Quilts for Pulse project.
At QuiltCon 2016 in Savannah, Georgia, Sarah Lauzon, Jodi Peterman and Sharleen Jespersen each stood in front of the Quilts for Pulse exhibit and told the story of how their guild went about collecting blocks, quilt tops and finished quilts to comfort and support those affected by the tragic shooting at the Pulse Nightclub on June 16, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. Unlike most Go Tell It! videos, these three describe a collective effort – the story of 1,800 quilts, instead of one. The Quilt Alliance was proud to be able to document, preserve and share the stories of the Quilts for Pulse project, and we invite other guilds and groups undertaking community projects, large and small, to consider recording their stories with our DIY Go Tell It! guidelines here.