Expanding the Reach, Audience and Impact of the Q.S.O.S. Oral History Project
A Report to the Robert and Ardis James Foundation
Reporting period: 4/30/13 – 2/1/14
Grant period: 3/1/12 – 2/28/14
Report updated: 5/15/19
Increasing Accessibility: Simplifying the Q.S.O.S. Manual
In 2013, Q.S.O.S. volunteers and staff pinpointed the revision of the manual as an important step to encourage participation in the project and expand Q.S.O.S. internationally. Pauline Macaulay and Janneken Smucker helped update the manual, which had not been updated since 2008.
The revised Q.S.O.S. Guidebook is now available on the Quilt Alliance site for download and includes current Quilt Alliance branding, up-to-date technological guidelines and best practices, and a simple, clear protocol for conducting or participating in a Q.S.O.S. interview. In an effort to make the Q.S.O.S. process more inclusive and increase participation, we have reduced the guidebook in length from 58 to 17 pages, creating three new ‘Quickstart Guides’ to clearly explain each Q.S.O.S. role. We will be able to easily adapt the new guidebook as the project evolves and expands.
Widening Our Reach: Internationalization of the Q.S.O.S. Protocol
With help from the Quilt Alliance, board member Pauline Macaulay launched the Talking Quilts Oral History Project, a UK-based oral history project modeled after the Q.S.O.S. protocol. The project received £89,100 from the Heritage Lottery Fund after Macaulay conducted a pilot study using the Q.S.O.S. method with London-area quilters. Talking Quilts and Q.S.O.S. are in the planning stages of development a platform for sharing the UK project alongside Q.S.O.S. When developed, future international sub-projects or Q.S.O.S. sister projects around the world will be able to adapt the platform to share their records.
Not Fade Away: Sharing Quilt Stories in the Digital Age
The Quilt Alliance’s inaugural quilts and oral history conference, Not Fade Away: Sharing Quilt Stories in the Digital Age, was held on July 20th, 2013. Holding the conference in conjunction with Sacred Threads, an established Northern Virginia quilt show, defrayed venue costs, encouraged participation and allowed attendees the opportunity to visit the exhibition during the event.
Update: the Not Fade Away Conference was subsequently held in 2015, 2017 and the next event is scheduled for July 20, 2019, again in coordination with the Sacred Threads Exhibition.
The one-day conference included:
- Keynote session from Janneken Smucker entitled Quilt Stories/Storied Quilts,
- Demonstrations of a Q.S.O.S. interview, with quiltmaker and fabric designer Jinny Beyer, and Go Tell It at the Quilt Show! interviews, with quilters featured in the Sacred Threads exhibition,
- Panel discussion featuring textile curators Marin Hanson, Nancy Bavor, Mary Worrall and Suzanne McDowell
- Breakout sessions focusing on Q.S.O.S. training, self-publishing and social media for quilters, quilt photography and quilt labeling.
70 people attended the conference, with 15 home tickets sold.
Home tickets allowed participants to virtually attend the conference from around the country and included video footage of Janneken Smucker’s keynote speech, the Q.S.O.S. interview with Beyer, Go Tell It at the Quilt Show! interviews and the curators’ panel discussion.
Sharing Resources: Q.S.O.S. Spotlight Blog Series
Emma Parker has created a weekly series of posts on the Quilt Alliance blog, called the Q.S.O.S. Spotlight, that features excerpts from compelling or topical Q.S.O.S. interviews. The posts encourage interaction with the Q.S.O.S. collection and offer an opportunity to share content from the archive.
Ardis James Q.S.O.S. Scholars Program
The Ardis James Q.S.O.S. Scholars Program has announced its first 3 scholars, each of whom is crafting an illustrated essay from curated content from the Q.S.O.S. archive. The Scholars Program aims to mine the rich resources of more than 1,000 Q.S.O.S. interviews and encourage the use of this repository for research, scholarship and education. The scholars’ essays were shared on the Alliance site in the spring of 2014.
Visit the Ardis James QSOS Scholars Program homepage here.
The first three Ardis James Q.S.O.S. Scholars are:
Barbara Brackman, quilt historian, curator and teacher. Barbara is the author of a number of books about quiltmaking and quilt history including the Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns and Clues in the Calico: A Guide to Identifying and Dating Antique Quilts and was inducted into the Quilters Hall of Fame in 2001.
Barbara’s project will be an essay or gallery that will examine interviewees’ use of aesthetics in discussions of their work such as color, design, pattern and the use of inspiration such as commercial patterns, photographs and other works of art. Update: Barbara’s project, Tradition and Aesthetics in QSOS Interviews, is a fascinating comparison of aesthetic words with traditional quilting words found in QSOS interviews. Read her report here.
Merikay Waldvogel, author, quilt historian and lecturer. Merikay has written several books about quilts in the 20th century, including Soft Covers for Hard Times: Quiltmaking and the Great Depression and, with Bets Ramsey, Quilts of Tennessee: Images of Domestic Life Prior to 1930. She was inducted into the Quilters Hall of Fame in 2009.
Merikay’s project will revisit Linda Claussen’s 2002 Q.S.O.S. interview, including an exploration of the controversy surrounding the Smithsonian Institution’s licensing of the reproduction and sale of important quilts its collection. Update: Merikay’s essay titled Memories of the Late 20th Century Quilt Scene: Linda Claussen’s QSOS Interview, can be found here.
Christine Humphrey, doctoral student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Christine received her master’s degree in textile history with a quilt studies emphasis at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where her master’s thesis focused on the roots of American quilt documentation projects from 1980-1989.
Christine has already submitted the first Scholars Program essay, drawing on her original research from the Q.S.O.S. archive, and dovetailing with her doctoral research in textile history at UNL.
Her essay—available here—is an accessible, informative exploration of the ways that quilting skills are learned and shared with future generations.
All three essays, are shared on the Ardis James Scholars Program homepage on the Quilt Alliance website. We used social media to raise awareness of the program.
Go Tell It at the Quilt Show! Growing and Expanding
Go Tell It at the Quilt Show!–the Alliance’s newest project–has grown quickly since its start in 2012. Currently, the Quilt Alliance YouTube channel features 50 (updated 5/15/19: over 500–see a gallery of videos below) 3-minute videos filmed across the country, including at the Not Fade Away conference in Herndon, Virginia, at Quilters Take Manhattan and at the International Quilt Festival in Houston.
2014 will see the launch of Go Tell It at the Museum!, thanks to a partnership with the International Quilt Study Center & Museum at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. We will collect Go Tell It! stories at the Museum’s celebration of National Quilting Day on March 15, 2014.
Guidelines for public submission of Go Tell It! videos are in progress, as well as training programs for guilds, museums and events interested in filming their own Go Tell It! videos. To help us conceptualize this project, we have proposed a paper for presentation at the Oral History Association’s annual conference in fall 2014. The OSA conference provides an opportunity to solicit advise from colleagues in the field of oral history. Update: the Do It Yourself Go Tell It! public submission page has been operational since 2017. Anyone can find recording tips and uploading instructions on our website here.