Students from Japan’s Saitama University and the University of Nebraska–Lincoln teamed up to curate an all-new exhibition at the International Quilt Museum.
As part of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln course, Anthropology 292: Stitching Culture | US-Japan Quilt Exhibit Collaborative, the students have been working together at the museum with a collection of molas. These small, colorful fabric panels have a long tradition among the Guna, one of Panama’s indigenous peoples.
“Stitching and Sharing Culture: Molas from Panama’s Guna People,” will be on display from Sept. 15 to Nov. 15 in the IQM’s Beavers Terrace Gallery. The public is invited to attend an opening reception for the exhibition, 4:30-6 p.m. Sept. 15 at the museum. Student presentations are slated to begin at 5 p.m. The event is free, and refreshments will be provided.
Charlee Sharack, a sophomore at Nebraska majoring in art history and journalism, said seeing the molas in person for the first time has been a highlight of the collaborative course.
“It was just really beautiful to see,” Sharack said, noting the bright and colorful details of the traditional fabric panels.
What’s more, Sharack said the “hands-on” approach gave students the opportunity to delve into museum work before entering the workforce.
“I think that’s really important and it’s a really amazing opportunity that UNL provides students,” Sharack said. “They want us to be prepared for when we do graduate.”
The opportunity for Saitama students to travel to Nebraska for the two-week experience came about earlier this year after Marin Hanson, the museum’s curator of international collections, served as a visiting instructor at the university in Japan. Alongside Saitama professor and Nebraska alum Nao Nomura, and Emira Ibrahimpasic, associate professor of practice and assistant director of the School of Global Integrative Studies, Hanson crafted a two-week experiential learning opportunity for the Japanese students. Nebraska students took part in a four-week course, a first collaboration between SGIS and the International Quilt Museum, made possible by a grant from Global Experiences.
Visits to other museums across Lincoln, a tour of the state capitol building and learning about museum curation in the IQM galleries were some of the experiences offered to the students.
Saitama student Yuto Tsuji said he was pleased to learn about quilts and museum work. As a person with an affinity for fashion, Tsuji said it was interesting learning about different fabrics and textiles.
“It’s a very good experience for us,” Tsuji said.
Aya Idei, another student at Saitama University, spoke to the amount of thought behind the design of each exhibition. She also spoke about the high level of care given to quilts at the IQM — pieces are considerately handled and delicately folded.
“They really care,” Idei said. “I was surprised how gently they care (for the quilts).”
Another benefit of the trip to Nebraska, Idei said, is an immersive English language experience with university peers.
“Using English is one of the things we have been wanting to do,” Idei said. “We have to use English to collaborate (with UNL students).”