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Unpacking Collections: The Legacy of Cuesta Benberry, An African American Quilt Scholar

December 6, 2009 - December 12, 2010
Heritage Gallery

Cuesta Benberry of St. Louis, Missouri, was one of the twentieth-century's pioneers of research on American quiltmaking and she was the pioneer of research on African American quiltmaking. Benberry was a founding member of the American Quilt Study Group, was inducted into the Quilter's Hall of Fame in 1983, was among the first honorees of Faith Ringgold's Anyone Can Fly Foundation, and is a Quilt Treasure in the on-line multi-media project of Michigan State University Museum and the Alliance for American Quilts. Quilt Treasures video profile of Cuesta Benberry

In 1977, she gave the Quilter's Hall of Fame her study collection of over 800 quilt blocks, a scrapbook, and a few pieces of ephemera. In 2003 Cuesta gifted the American Folk Art Museum with the non-African American portions of her quilt ephemera collection. In 2007 Cuesta passed away leaving behind a legacy of public scholarship and her collections. In mid 2008, her family gifted the Michigan State University Museum with her collection of African and African American quilts and her quilt history collection and the museum also acquired Cuesta's extensive collection of quilt kits. In 2009, the American Folk Art Museum transferred their Benberry Collections to the MSU Museum so that the bulk of her work could be in one place where it could be more effectively accessed for research and educational uses.

Over the past year, MSU Museum staff, students, and volunteers have been sifting through, cataloguing, and re-housing Cuesta's collection. In the process, these workers have been engaging in discussions of their observations about both the collection and the collector and the issues and insights that are raised when one "unpacks" the work of a scholar/collector.

This exhibition, then, is an attempt to understand the work of Cuesta Benberry, one of America's important collector/scholars, through interacting with a selection of textiles, rare books, patterns, ephemera, and samples of her personal journals, correspondence, and extensive research files.

Unpacking Collections: The Legacy of Cuesta Benberry, An African American Quilt Scholar runs in the MSU Museum's Heritage Gallery from **December 6, 2009 - September 5, 2010 before it begins a national tour.