I’m gonna change your mind about the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, KY. I’m betting that many of you think this is a quaint, ‘old timey’ place that your grandmother or great aunts would enjoy. This was also my opinion before I visited.
I had the opportunity to tour the museum on several occasions in the past. I declined every time. I’m ashamed now to admit this but I not only refused to go, I used the quilt museum as a punchline.
My daughter had to travel to Paducah several times a year to rehearse with her Color Guard team. Each time she returned home, I’d say “Did you get a chance to stop by the quilt museum?” And then we’d laugh hysterically.
My nephew got married in Paducah a few years ago and our family stayed there for the weekend of the event. Every time one of our teens asked what we were planning to do, outside of the wedding, I told them we were going to the quilt museum. Eyes were rolled. I could go on but you get the point.
When Kentucky Tourism suggested Lauren and I make a weekend trip to Kentucky Dam Village and Paducah, I knew what was coming. We were definitely going to have to make a trip the the Quilt Museum.
This is a good time to tell you that Kentucky Tourism provided us with a free guided tour of The National Quilt Museum. That tour has a value of $16. We were not paid for this post and I hope, by now, you understand that my good opinion cannot be purchased for 16 bucks.
Here’s what happened. I fell deeply and totally love with The National Quilt Museum.
We were given a tour by the museum’s Executive Director, Frank Bennett. We were running very late for our tour because we were having so much fun at Make Paducah. (And remember, my attitude about the museum was bad so I honestly figured we could knock out a tour of the place in 30 minutes.)
Mr. Bennett was ridiculously gracious to us. He not only knows a lot about quilts and the artists that create them, he has such an admiration for the skill and genius on display in the museum that it’s impossible not to fall under the spell.
My ill conceived opinion, before I toured the museum, was that quilts are very nice and that’s it. Most people I know have a quilter or two in their family. We may even have a quilt we bought at Kohl’s or Cracker Barrel on our bed. Quilts don’t seem like art. They’re everyday household items.The idea that they could be special seems impossible.
Friends, I’m here to tell you. These quilts are special. They are works of art created in fabric and thread. Every notion you have about quilts will be exploded by the works on display at The National Quilt Museum.
I’ve been able to visit some of the greatest art museums in the world. (My husband travels extensively for work and sometimes I get to tag along on frequent flyer miles.)
I’ve seen the impressionists at The Art Institute in Chicago. I’ve seen Vermeers and Rembrandts at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. I’ve seen the Elgin Marbles at The British Museum. I’ve seen the actual Mona Lisa at the actual Louvre.
I was as moved by the artistry on display in a small museum in Kentucky as I was in any of those hallowed collections around the world.
One of the drawbacks to visiting a great art museum is that they just have so many things to see. I’ve staggered out of museums many times just exhausted by the sheer volume of their offerings. One of my favorite things about The National Quilt Museum is the size of the collection.
They rotate their quilts on display so you could visit several times in one year and never see the same quilt. There is plenty to see but there’s also restful space for your eyes. There’s enough but not too much.
The size of the displays really gives you the opportunity to appreciate the pieces. You can get up close to the quilts (often the front and back) and, in doing so, appreciate the intricate stitches and piecing that make up the quilts.
The National Quilt Museum features does feature some traditional quilts. These will remind you of quilts you have seen before. But, look closer and you will find that they are master works in textile artistry.
The museum also houses many quilts that look nothing like you’d expect. We also saw a few quilts on display that would rival any painting at a traditional museum.
We normally take a ton of photos when we visit a place with the intention of sharing it with our readers. We were so blown away by the Quilt Museum that we didn’t get as many photographs as usual. And even the pictures we are sharing will not do justice to these quilts. You just have to see them in person.
I wouldn’t take a toddler or even a rowdy grade school child to the quilt museum. But do take your girlfriends. Take your arty teens and older children. Take your husband. Quilts are not just for women. Get him in the door and the museum will take care of the rest. And by all means, take your grandmother and your great aunt too.
The National Quilt Museum
Address: 215 Jefferson St, Paducah, KY 42001
Rachel is a Middle Tennessee native, born and raised in the Nashville area and having lived in Hendersonville, Murfreesboro, and Mount Juliet. She is mom to 3, step mom to 4 and Grandma to one (so far!)