The following press release was sent to the Bloomingtonian:
New exhibit features artistry, functionality and ingenuity of Indiana coverlets.
INDIANAPOLIS (Jan. 30, 2024) — An iconic piece from early settler life in Indiana, the coverlet is a unique type of textile that blends together artistry, functionality and ingenuity. Visitors can see more than 30 Jacquard coverlets and learn about the Hoosiers who created them as part of the new Woven Together exhibit, open Feb. 3-June 30 at the Indiana State Museum.
Primarily used during the 19th century, coverlets are woven bedspreads that not only provided warmth and comfort but also served as a centerpiece of the home. Woven Together will feature coverlets with an array of vivid colors, mainstay materials and astounding patterns. A fun seek-and-find activity will also encourage visitors to take a closer look at these huge household objects to discover hidden images, including a seashell, key, firecracker, sailboat and peacock.
Beyond highlighting the beauty and practicality of coverlets, Woven Together will also share the stories of Indiana’s weavers. Reference guides will introduce visitors to these skilled craftspeople, most of whom were first- and second-generation immigrants who left Europe during the Industrial Revolution with hopes of revitalizing their trade in the United States. Visitors can also feel different samples of wool and cotton — the same fibers weavers used to make these coverlets centuries ago.
“This exhibit will give visitors a sense of the industrial changes that took place during the mid-19th century in Indiana,” said Mary Figueroa, the curator of history for the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites who curated Woven Together. “Woven into these coverlets are clues that hint at a gradual move away from the homespun and handwoven toward an Indiana where manufacturing and innovation was beginning to take hold. More broadly, I hope Woven Together will spark visitors’ interest in textile history and an appreciation for the artistry and labor of weaving.”
While weavers used a variety of techniques to make coverlets, the awe-inspiring examples in Woven Together showcase the complex work produced by the Jacquard loom. As part of the exhibit, a video will illustrate how coverlets were made using these massive mechanical looms. A precursor to early computing, the Jacquard loom used a series of cards punched with holes that corresponded to the geometric design of the coverlet. Visitors can also use their imagination to create their own coverlet design through a hands-on pattern blocks activity.
The coverlets featured in Woven Together have all been newly acquired from the John and Janet Simmermaker Family Collection, one of the most respected coverlet collections in the country. John and Janet Simmermaker, of Winamac, began collecting antique coverlets more than 50 years ago and have since obtained more than 700 pieces from the 1830s to the 1870s, including examples of the work of nearly every known Hoosier coverlet maker.
“As proud Hoosiers, we are delighted to donate our 50-year collection of Indiana coverlets to the Indiana State Museum,” said John Simmermaker. “We wanted to make sure they would be saved for posterity, and we felt the museum would be the best place for them to remain safe, secure and visible for years to come.”
In all, the museum acquired nearly 130 coverlets from the Simmermaker collection. In addition to the 32 pieces selected to hang in the third floor NiSource gallery, visitors can use an interactive digital projection to see dozens more remarkable examples from all known Indiana coverlet makers.
Woven Together is free for members and included with museum admission, which is $20 for adults, $14 for youth (ages 3-17) and $18 for seniors. Visitors can go to www.indianamuseum.org to purchase admission and learn about the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites’ 12 locations across the state.
In conjunction with this fascinating exhibit, Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites will launch an effort to weave communities together by donating blankets to individuals experiencing homelessness or housing instability during the darkest and coldest season of the year. With support for this initiative from Vera Bradley®, the museum system will work with charitable organizations in central Indiana to ensure the blankets are delivered to those who need them.
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About the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites
The Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites is a museum system with 12 locations across the state, offering visitors a chance to engage with Indiana’s past and present and see how their actions help shape the future. At each location, visitors are invited to explore big questions and create lasting experiences that will resonate long after each visit ends. Whether interested in art or architecture, history or science, there’s something for everyone and every interest. The Indianapolis museum is located in White River State Park in the heart of downtown Indianapolis. The historic sites are located across the state, stretching from Rome City in northeastern Indiana to Evansville in the southwest. Learn more at IndianaMuseum.org