An exhibition: One American Family: A Tale of North and South

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The exhibition One American Family: A Tale of North and South was the culmination of a multi-year project that began with a graduate student’s examination of three quilt tops that once belonged to a family that had donated over 500 objects to the University of Rhode Island’s Historic Textile and Costume Collection. This family, which had deep roots in New England, became intertwined through marriage with a family from Charleston, South Carolina. The student, Rachel May, a doctoral candidate in English, became so enamoured of the quilt tops, two related swatch books and the story behind the artefacts that she continued her research for several years, finally publishing a book in 2018 titled An American Quilt: Unfolding a Story of Family and Slavery. The book is based on documentary research, but imagines the lives of the quiltmaker, her family and the enslaved people she came to own during the antebellum period. To commemorate the publication of the book, the university sponsored an exhibition and several educa-tional events. A graduate-level class ‘Exhibition and storage of historic textiles’ tackled the problem of how to separate the documentary evidence from the book’s fictionalized narrative, and to visualize that evidence using the artefacts in the Historic Textile and Costume Collection.

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Critical Studies in Fashion and Beauty