The goal of this project is to create an exhibition and book showcasing 250 quilts that tell the history of the Commonwealth of Virginia. They’ll be created by quilters from across the United States and will be 20 inches square. The quilts must depict a person, place, event, area, idea, or thing from Virginia history. For the purpose of this project, the geographic boundaries of Virginia will include all of present-day Virginia and West Virginia. Until 1863, West Virginia was part of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The time frame that can be included in this project is open ended, from the creation of the physical land that is the Commonwealth of Virginia roughly 1.5 billion years ago to today.
To further organize the project, quilters have four themes to consider while picking the topic of their quilt:
● Unfinished Revolutions
● Power of Place
● We the People
● Virginia Experiments
These themes are adapted from The Field Guide for the Semiquincentennial: Making History at 250 by the American Association of State and Local History. You can find the Field Guide here.
In 1776, the Second Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence, stating in the preamble, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Since then, the United States has grappled with fulfilling that promise. With the theme Unfinished Revolutions, we encourage you to examine the different fights for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that have occurred and still are occurring.
From the abolitionist movement of the 1800s, to the fight for womens’ right to vote in the late 1800s and early 1900s, to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, to the fight for LGBTQA+ rights today, there are Unfinished Revolutions throughout our history. Many of these national movements included people, places, and events that happened in or are related to Virginia. These struggles are not linear movements; there are setbacks and pauses in all revolutions, and many of these ideas are still works in progress today.
Power of Place
The physical boundaries of Virginia have changed many times, and the physical features of all of the United States are constantly changing. From natural erosion wearing down the Appalachian Mountains, to creating artificial lakes, to building roads and canals, to climate change-related weather events, the physical landscape of Virginia is continually evolving.
These changes have influenced people and events throughout history. The physical features of an area can have far-reaching effects: Think about the history of the Eastern Shore and how proximity to the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean shaped that region; how did the Great Dismal Swamp affect the movement of early settlers; how have the mountains of the Western part of the state affected migration and the culture of the region?
Commemorate a local landmark from your region. Consider why areas of the state were quick or slow to settle, or how changing waterways have affected human movement and animal migration.
We the People
From the everyday to the extraordinary, this is the place to celebrate Virginians. Who is a Virginian? Who gets to decide who is a Virginian? Think beyond the famous people to the local level: Who founded your town? What Indigenous tribes lived in your area before European settlers arrived? How did the enslaved population affect a place? What recent immigrants have helped shape your city? Consider artists, musicians, writers, scientists, teachers, local politicians or activists.
Virginia has been home to some great inventions, ideas and advancements in science, and this is the place to celebrate them. Thomas Jefferson invented the swivel chair while at Monticello; Cyrus McCormick patented the mechanical reaper in the Shenandoah Valley; the NASA Langley Research Center has been instrumental in the space race; Charles Brown Fleet invented ChapStick in Lynchburg — and so much more!