Quilts can be powerful tools of preserving and learning about family history. Quilt labels, signature quilts, and friendship quilts all hold clues about the past. Rarely are those clues laid out in such a straightforward way as they are on the Susa Harris Family Quilt.
The powerful story behind this quilt is only known to us today because of the precise family history documentation Susa Harris included on her quilt top. Because her quilt blocks contained detailed and dated histories of marriages, deaths and births, genealogical and historic researchers at the International Quilt Museum were able to uncover a story of one woman’s deep commitment to her beloved family.
Personal memory can be different than the more concrete historic record, which is one reason this quilt is so remarkable. It combines the hazy nostalgia of a warm family memory with the more rigid and fact-based historic record of a family tree, allowing researchers to access valuable historic information through an object of comfort.
As Sue Prichard, Curator of Contemporary Textiles at the Victoria & Albert, wrote about the difference between memory and history, “Memories, particularly those of the home, are often awakened by the sensory triggers of sight, smell, and touch. They are embellished by the oral histories handed down with each generation. These memories are uniquely individual—focusing on the intimate rather than the worldly, constructing a patchwork of narrative that is neither true nor false, but an amalgam of the two.”
Additional Quilt Information:
Materials Cotton fabric
Technique Hand applique, hand quilted
Dimensions 74″ x 55.5″
- Susa Harris Family Quilt
- What’s In A Name? Inscribed Quilts, virtual exhibit at the International Quilt Museum
- Genealogy Research at the National Archives
- Genealogy Research Tips: Breaking Through Brick Walls and Getting Past Dead Ends