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The Kyra Hicks Contemporary African American Quilt History Research Collection

Kyra Hicks
Kyra Hicks
Photo by John Woo

The quilt history collections at Michigan State University Museum have recently become an even more important repository for research and education. Kyra E. Hicks of Arlington, Virginia has gifted the Michigan State University Museum with her research papers associated with her publications Black Threads: An African American Quilting Sourcebook (2003), the children’s book Martha Ann’s Quilt for Queen Victoria (2007), other books.
Among the items gifted are: numerous articles about African American quilters and quilts, detailed surveys about African-American made quilts in museum collections, and ephemeral materials such as correspondences, guild newsletters, quilt and doll patterns, and exhibit catalogs and marketing materials.  According to Dr. Marsha MacDowell, MSU Museum curator and professor of Art, Art History, and Design, “Kyra Hicks has been an important voice in advancing scholarship on and interest in African American quilt studies and we are so pleased that her papers will be preserved and available to others for further research and education projects.”

Hicks chose the MSU Museum as the repository for her research papers because she knew the museum already had an extensive collection of quilts and quilt history, including significant African American materials. “Michigan is dear to me as my mother and her family is from Detroit and I spent childhood summers with my Granny in Jackson. Additionally, I have visited the MSU Museum and am very impressed with its commitment to preserving quilt history as well as with the involvement of staff and students in learning from and using repository materials.  I hope these papers will inspire tomorrow’s next quilt detective to uncover new facets of African American quilting,” says Hicks.

An active blogger about historical and contemporary African American quilt art (see http://blackthreads.blogspot.com ), Hicks is also a talented artist. Her quilts have been included in national exhibitions and have been featured in numerous newspapers, articles, and books. Her late grandfather, George William Crockett Jr., was U.S. Representative from Michigan’s 13th district from 1980-1991. Her late grandmother, Ethelene Jones Crockett, a noted Detroit physician, was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame in 1988.

The MSU collections include Michigan African American quilts and associated ethnographic documentary materials and the collections of Cuesta Benberry, the pioneer historian of African American quilts, quiltmaking, and quilt artists. These materials are a tremendous resource for investigations of art, textiles, African American history, racial and political history, women’s history, and many other studies. The collections are available for research visits by appointment, email swansonl@msu.edu to make arrangements.

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