Thursday, May 16, 2013

A Wonderful Partnership

By Marin Hanson
Curator of Exhibitions

We spent the morning at Xi'an Jiaotong University Art Museum, going on a tour of their beautiful new facility and having a meeting with the staff about possible future collaborations. At the meeting, we gave Vice Director Li a gift for their museum's collections: a nineteenth-century American Log Cabin quilt.

They reciprocated with a quilt for our collections: a thirty-year-old bai jia bei, or "One Hundred Families Quilt."

It was made by a woman in Gansu Province for her son, who was once a student at XJTU and is now an art professor specializing in Chinese calligraphy. This was a really exciting moment for me, because although I had heard about a bai jia bei tradition, and we had seen new ones being made at the village we visited yesterday, I had never seen an old one. This is the confirmation I've been looking for that this is a tradition that has been around a long time.

It is a small, fairly plain quilt, but it is wonderful to me because it was made especially for a child's everyday use. It is evidence of an embedded tradition, proof that patchwork bedcovers are not simply a tourist market craft. Even if we find nothing else in our remaining days, I'm feeling like we've had some true success on this research trip.

It was a really good day, and I am so grateful to our XJTU Art Museum partners -- they've been wonderful collaborators on this project.

Marin Hanson is the Curator of Exhibitions at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She holds undergraduate degrees from Grinnell College and Northern Illinois University and earned her MA in museum studies and textile history with a quilt studies emphasis from UNL. She is currently pursuing doctoral research on cross-cultural quiltmaking practices, with particular emphasis on China and the United States.


  1. Yeah on another confirmation of this tradition. It means so much to me and all my adoptive parent friends.

  2. Michele: You have no idea how excited I was when they give this little piece to us (well, no, I guess you can!). I actually got a little teary-eyed. I'm hoping to learn more about the maker as we continue our partnership with XJTU Art Museum.