More than a dozen locally-made, antique quilts will be on display this weekend during the Antique Quilt Exhibit at Belmont Hall. Exhibit coordinator Susan Wolfe said she is excited to share the long-forgotten voices of some of Smyrna.
The forgotten voices of several of Smyrna's earliest residents will be resurrected this weekend when more than a dozen antique and vintage quilts go on display at Belmont Hall.
Friends of Belmont Hall president Susan Wolfe said that she knew that the local historical society had a few quilts in their collection but it wasn't until she began talking to Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs Curator of Collections Ann Baker Horsey that the idea for an exhibit really took shape.
"Anne said that the state had several Smyrna [-made] quilts and once we realized just how many the historical society had, we knew that we could do an exhibit," Wolfe said, explaining that the Duck Creek Historical Society had seven locally made quilts while the state had nearly 10.
Both Wolfe and Horsey said that the quilts, some of which date back to the early 1800s, offer an often under-represented method for examining history.
"A lot of times, the history that we present to the public is male-dominated," Wolfe said. "This exhibit features women. It shows their artistry, their creativity."
Horsey then explained that it's not just the creativity that gets highlighted when the quilts are displayed; they can also literally serve as written records for Smyrna as well.
"The Asbury United Methodist Church quilt that we have in our collection really tells you who lived in Smyrna at the time it was made," Horsey said, adding that the several hundred names written into the quilt were likely sold as part of a fundraiser. "Locals who stop in to see the quilts will see a part of their own history. That's what excites me."
After seeing the quilts, Horsey hopes the exhibit will prompt people to go home, dig out their own family heirlooms and participate in the Delaware Quilt Documentation Project, an endeavor that aims to record information on the quilts currently residing in Delaware that were made before World War II and the quilt-makers who created them. Once completed, the project will become part of the American Quilt Index, which Horsey says will be an "amazing database one day." More information about the project will be on hand at this weekend's exhibit.
Wolfe hopes that some local quilters will stop by and help her identify at least one of the mystery patterns she's not yet put a name to.
"I've been going through these books of patterns and I just can't find this one," Wolfe said, referring to a borderless, cotton patchwork quilt made of 25 squares banded by soft paisley fabric and orange squares that she relentlessly examines.
"I can just envision the person making it," she said. "I mean, these are quilts that women here in Smyrna made. I just have so much admiration for the work these women put into them and I love that you can see that they were used. It really is another way to think about our history."