Pattern and Purpose: American Quilts from Shelburne Museum
10/6/2018 - 1/6/2019
Organized by Shelburne Museum.

Shelburne Museum was the first American museum to exhibit quilts as works of art, a testament to the trailblazing vision of museum founder Electra Havemeyer Webb (1888-1960) and her passion for fine, folk, and decorative arts. Fascinated by design elements of color, pattern, line, and construction, and eager to recover a quintessentially “American” style of material culture, she established the core of Shelburne’s collection through the personal gift or purchase of over 400 historic bedcoverings in the 1950s. Pattern and Purpose pulls back the covers on these everyday household companions that can transcend the commonplace.

Throughout the history of quilt-making, the finest pieces were often made to be admired rather than used. Brought out of cupboards and trunks on special occasions, highly-prized bedcovers linked family and community histories, bridging the gap between domestic life and public display. Young women often created quilts as part of their dowries, and quilts were gifted as expressions of friendship, devotion, or charity. By the middle of the nineteenth century, there were increasing public venues for their display, including state and county fairs, where adept quilt-makers competed for prizes and local renown. Today, quilt-making is recognized as an art form in its own right, revealing creative expression through their thoughtful design and careful execution and carrying the unique hand of their makers, as clearly as a painting or sculpture might.

Bringing together thirty-two masterpieces made between the first decades of the 1800s and the turn of the twenty-first century, Pattern and Purpose ranges from early whole-cloth quilts created for warmth and utility, to carefully-pieced Lemoyne stars, embroidered botanical “best quilts,” and contemporary art quilts. Bold in design and pattern, they reveal the skill of their makers, from complex geometric designs that would feel at home in a gallery of Pop Art, to delicate patterns drawn from nature. By placing these quilts on the museum wall, we gain an expanded sense of what art can be, and recognize how invention and discovery can be found in the most familiar of places.

What's pictured: Unidentified maker, Applique Roses and Tulips Quilt, 1840-1860, cotton, 90 x 87 in., Collection of Shelburne Museum, 1959-176.2. Photography by Andy Duback

Hours, Tickets, & Tours

Pattern and Purpose is open during all regular Museum hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 10 am to 4 pm; late 'til 8 pm on Thursday. Closed Mondays and major holidays.

Pattern and Purpose is a ticketed exhibition:
General public adults: $10
(Thursday evening pricing, 4-8 pm: $5 for general public adults)
$5 for college students with a valid ID (tickets for those with a UNMC student ID are free)
Youth ages 17 and younger: Free
Joslyn Members: Free (Not a member? Click here to join now!)

All visitors, including members, must obtain a ticket for entrance to the exhibition (no reservations necessary).

Programs with visits to the exhibition will be priced accordingly for general public adults. Docent-guided tours of the exhibition are offered on select days. Check the calendar of events for exact tour dates. Pattern and Purpose ticket pricing applies.

Mobile Pattern and Purpose

Free Wi-Fi is available in all Joslyn galleries. Bring your web-enabled mobile device or borrow one of ours to access the dual language Pattern and Purpose mobile tour. Presented by Joslyn and OnCell. Call (402) 881-3601 to access the tour in English; (402) 972-4031 for the Spanish language tour. Tour access information also available on site and on the Museum's mobile tour page.

Exhibition-Related Events & Programs

Friday, October 5 @ 5:30 pm

Monday, October 8; 12–3 pm

Sunday, October 21 @ 2 pm

Saturday & Sunday, November 3 & 4
Free College Weekend
During regular public hours (10 am to 4 pm) on Saturday and Sunday, September 3 & 4, anyone with a valid college ID will receive free tickets to Pattern and Purpose.

Saturday, November 3; 11 am–1 pm

Saturday, November 3; 1–3 pm

November 30–December 2; 10 am–4 pm daily
'Tis the Season for Quilts!

Thursday, December 6 @ 6:30 pm (cash bar @ 5 pm)

Thursday, December 13 @ 6:30 pm (cash bar @ 5 pm)

Many regularly scheduled programs will feature Pattern and Purpose-inspired themes. Check these listings for details:

Quilts. Dining. Shopping.
We've pieced together the perfect Museum excursion for your group! For $25 per person, enjoy a leisurely self-guided tour of Pattern and Purpose: American Quilts from Shelburne Museum, a tasty boxed lunch in Café Durham*, and a 10% discount on must-have merchandise in Joslyn's Hitchcock Museum Shop. All Museum galleries will be open for your exploration. For an additional $50 per group, a docent will present an illuminating guided tour of the exhibition or permanent collection. Reservations must be made four weeks in advance. Click here to submit your request for a visit today!

*Choose a beef, ham, turkey, chicken salad, or tuna salad sandwich on a variety of bread options or vegetarian caprese tortilla wrap – all served with seasonal fruit, salad du jour, and gourmet cookie – OR a classic chef's salad served with roll and cookie. All lunches include coffee/iced tea/water service.