I love my volunteer job in the library and research center at the NEQM. I see myself as a matchmaker, helping people with questions get together with the people or written resources that can help them. That’s why my e-mail address is: Questions@NEQuiltMuseum.org
Recently I got an e-mail with photos from Mike in Dunstable, MA whose family quilt had previously been documented by the volunteers at MassQuilts. His problem was that the dog had chewed some holes in his quilt and he wanted to know whether we could send him to someone who could restore or repair it before he passed it along to his daughter. I checked our records which showed that the quilt was already well-worn before his dog got it and was never of museum quality but simply loved for its memories. I explained the difference between the skill and expense of professional textile restoration versus basic repair. Then I e-mailed several people on my list of “resources for repair” with his contact information and the photos. One of the people on that list replied to me and then contacted the quilt owner who took the quilt to her and thanked me for my assistance.
Marianne Hatton, a museum member in Sudbury, MA e-mailed me to ask for advice on books about “Optical Illusions and Dimension in Quilts” for a future class she plans to teach. I sent her a list of suggested titles and she asked me to mail them from our library which I did. A week later, she came into the library, browsed in more reference books from the shelves, discovered even more great titles, and signed them out as well. While she was there, she had time to see the exhibit of contemporary quilts by SAQA members. Marianne teaches a variety of subjects in quilting with a one day workshop coming up on Friday, June 7th about silk ribbon embroidery and crazy quilting at the museum.
Another e-mail came from Cathy in Southern New Hampshire. She had inherited 3 quilts from her grandmother and thought (probably from watching Antiques Roadshow on PBS) that she needed an appraisal to learn more about them. When she asked an appraiser about it, she decided she could not afford to pay $40 per quilt. She asked me if I could find someone less expensive for her. I replied by explaining that a written appraisal requires time and extensive training but is only needed if she wants to insure, sell or donate the quilts. If she just wanted more information about them, she could bring them to show us and we’d tell her what we can without providing the market value which we’re not qualified to do. If she lived in Massachusetts, we would have given her an appointment to have them documented by our team of MassQuilts volunteers.
Some questions come by phone (978-452-4207 X 15). Ruth in Ayer called to ask how to clean the Bicentennial Quilt at the Littleton Historical Society. The volunteer on duty in the library gave her some websites to read and she learned about how to safely vacuum the dust but also how to protect the quilt from fading.
And some questions come in person from visitors to the museum. Susan who teaches in Ipswich, MA asked about quilts and the Underground Railroad. I gave her a page I’ve written to answer this very frequent question that explains the controversy and lists both fiction and non-fiction books on the topic of slave-made quilts before the Civil War.
These five are just a sampling of the kinds of questions we get, all happening just this month.
~ Martha Supnik, Library Volunteer Coordinator