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Local Museums Rich With Quilts Start a 'Quilt Trail'

Norwalk Quilt Trail exhibit gearing up

Coming soon to a museum near you: the Norwalk Quilt Trail, a collaboration of several city museums, some of which have rich holdings in quilts. Organizers are asking Norwalkers to contribute their own significant examples of the folk art to the collaborative exhibits.

The Quilt Trail is a collaboration of the Norwalk Historical Society, the Rowayton Historical Society, the  , the , the Norwalk Seaport Association’s Sheffield Island Lighthouse, and the Switch Tower Museum. The local history of quilting will be on display not only in the six museums, but also in other public spaces like City Hall.

The story of the American quilt mirrors the history of industrialization. It wasn't until about the 1840s when the textile industry in New England had grown to the point that fabric was readily available. Until then, fabrics were brought over from Europe. Quilting become a common way for American women to extend the life of fabrics, and as a result creative use of shapes, symbols and colors became part of the quilting style.

David Westmoreland explained how the idea came about. As the Norwalk Historical Society was doing an inventory of their collections, the first such inventory in fifty years, they uncovered boxes and boxes of quilts.

For Westmoreland this was a treasure trove. His family, going back to his grandmother's generation in the late 1800s, were quilters at a time when quilting was not just a social endeavor but a necessity. Westmoreland explained that he saw that some of the quilts in the society's collection dated back to the early 19th century, which places Norwalk at the forefront of the historical rise of quilting.

This in turn led to a research project to determine the scope of both textiles and quilting in the region. From there, the collaboration with Norwalk's other cultural institutions took shape.

"I am thrilled that this exhibit has all six museums participating as part of a joint exhibit," said Westmoreland. "This isn't just a static exhibit of historical quilts, we have the Norwalk Children's Foundation that will be developing a quilt as part of their Piece by Peace program.  They encourages public participation in creating a quilt that will hang in City Hall. In September, the Triangle Community Center's exhibit will feature panels from the AIDS Quilt featuring Norwalk names."

According to Wendell Livingston, Rowayton Historical Society president, there is a significant number of quilts in the hands of private collections that the committee steering the Norwalk Quilt Trail hope to showcase as part of the exhibit. “Antique quilts hand-stitched before the Civil War and Bicentennial quilts will be part of the exhibit.”

Lesley Korzennik, the Rowayton Historical Society curator, is putting out the call to area residents to loan their quilts for the exhibit. They are looking for quiilts owned or created by area residents who can share the quilt history, particularly within the family."

"We invite all Norwalkers to be a part of this new initiative and participate in Norwalk ’s heritage,” Korzennik said.

For information regarding the project, and how personal quilts could be displayed, (call 203) 831-0136 or email lkorzennik@hotmail.com.

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