Since the blockbuster 2011 New York City exhibition, “Infinite Variety: Three Centuries of Red and White Quilts,” the Joanna S. Rose Collection has become synonymous with this special genre of red and white quilts. Over a decade later, the collection is reemerging in the West Gallery of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln International Quilt Museum, allowing visitors to be surrounded by some of the finest examples of antique American quilts in this simple but bold and graphic color scheme.
New Yorker Joanna S. Rose (1930-2021) began buying quilts in the 1950s, searching at flea markets and antique stores. Her collection grew quickly, but she never saw herself as a collector. She was a self-described “treasure hunter,” and particularly liked hunting for red and white quilts. In 2011, Rose’s husband, Daniel, celebrated her 80th birthday by exhibiting over 650 of her red and white quilts in the Park Avenue Armory in New York City. On view for free for five days, “Infinite Variety: Three Centuries of Red and White Quilts” was the largest exhibition of quilts held in the city at the time.
“The Infinite Variety show was a phenomenon in the quilt world,” said Carolyn Ducey, Ardis B. James curator of collections at the International Quilt Museum. “It becomes this point in time that everyone remembers because if you couldn’t go see Infinite Variety, you were reading about it or hearing about it and wishing you were going.”
Rose donated the “Infinite Variety” quilts in honor of her and her husband’s 63rd wedding anniversary and in 2021, Rose and her family oversaw the transfer of the quilts from their home to the museum.
The International Quilt Museum, accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, has a series of streamlined processes and a skilled team of staff to care for quilts and to ensure their structural integrity over time. Quilts are surveyed, researched, vacuumed, folded and re-folded throughout time to ensure that quilts can be used in the museum for exhibitions and for research for years to come.
“Joanna knew that we were going to be able to take care of her collection and that was hugely important to her,” said Ducey. “There are not a lot of museums that would be able to absorb this number of quilts. Quilts are hung using various unique methods that pay homage to the way the quilts were boldly presented from floor to ceiling at the New York Armory, but the colors of this collection also suit a local audience of Nebraskans. Mrs. Rose’s iconic collection of red and white quilts present themselves loudly and proudly to a community of Nebraskans that bleed the colors red and white.
“The fact that the show is all red and white quilts, and that Nebraska is all red and white, it fits the International Quilt Museum on a whole other level,” said Ducey.
Rose’s quilts will be displayed in the West Gallery from April 1 to September 10.
The International Quilt Museum, located on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln East Campus at 33rd and Holdrege, is dedicated to building a global collection and audience that celebrates the cultural and artistic significance of quilts. Visit the International Quilt Museum website for more information.