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A Pattern of History: What Quilts Reveal

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A Pattern of History: What Quilts Reveal

In-Person Program

All-Day Tour

Friday, July 26, 2024 - 8:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET
Code: 1CD040
Departs Mayflower Hotel, DeSales St side
1127 Connecticut Ave NW
No fringe stop on this tour
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Materials for this program

Silk embroidery on silk needlework with watercolor and spangles by Eliza Camp, 1810 (The Daughters of the American Revolution Museum / Gift of Marguerite Durkee)

Quilting is a tradition that has transcended the limits of culture and eras, likely making its way to North America with early immigrants. Throughout the centuries, styles and techniques changed from basic utilitarian squares to elaborately stitched designs. Yet the common thread in the creation of quilts was often their makers: women. Led by Alden O’Brien, textile and costumes curator at the Daughters of the American Revolution Museum, explore the role quilting has played in our society, including how it has been used to express emotion and act as a force of social justice.  

Begin the day at the DAR museum in Washington, D.C., where O’Brien gives a tour of the exhibition “Sewn in America: Making—Meaning—Memory,” which features quilts, clothing, and needlework from 1750 to today. The exhibition looks at the role sewing played in the lives of American women and the ways they expressed emotions, identity, and opinions through their quilts and other textiles. Visit a selection of the museum’s period rooms, some of which include quilts and sewing tools, in self-guided tours.

Continue to the Virginia Quilt Museum in Harrisonburg, Virginia, where you go behind the scenes in the conservation lab and get an up-close view of a selection of quilts from the archives. Guided tours of the museum highlight three special exhibitions. One is the traveling “Sacred Threads” exhibition, whose quilts explore themes of joy, inspiration, spirituality, healing, grief, and peace. The quilts are selected from the biennial freestanding “Sacred Threads” exhibition, created by quilters nationwide.

Round out the day at the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton, Virginia. The living history museum recreates farm life in the regions that had been home to the immigrants most responsible for creating the folk culture of Virginia and traces rural life in the New World. Houses and farmyards represent life in England, Germany, Ireland, and West Africa in the 17th and 18th centuries and Native American and European farms replicate the 1760s, 1820s, and 1860s. The farms provide a sense of some of the contexts in which women were quilting, sewing, knitting, spinning, and weaving. A schoolhouse and an African American church of the 1860s round out the museum, where a variety of tasks and skills are demonstrated.

Know Before You Go

  • The tour departs by motorcoach from downtown Washington, DC. Content delivered by the study leader on the way to the destination is an integral part of the study tour experience. Meeting the group once the tour is en route is discouraged.
  • Tour participants meet at and leave by bus from the Mayflower Hotel, Connecticut Ave & DeSales St. No fringe pick-up.
  • Enjoy a gourmet boxed lunch while en route to the Virginia Quilt Museum.

General Information

  • Registration for this tour will end by 2 p.m. ET on Thursday, July 25, 2024.
  • Smithsonian Associates is a mask-friendly environment. Please feel free to bring and wear a mask at any time during a tour, both for your safety or the safety of others.
  • As we aim to move away from single use water bottles, guests are strongly encouraged to get in the habit of bringing their own reusable water bottle on tour.
  • For additional tour information: