Unpacking Collections: The Legacy of Cuesta Benberry to open at the DuSable Museum of African American History

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The highly acclaimed exhibition Unpacking Collections: The Legacy of Cuesta Benberry, an African American Quilt Scholar opened at the DuSable Museum of African American History, on Tuesday, November 15, 2016 and continues through March of 2017. The Museum is located at 740 East 56th Place (57th Street and South Cottage Grove Avenue) in Chicago.

Unpacking Collections: The Legacy of Cuesta Benberry, an African American Quilt Scholar explores the production and meaning of collecting through this collection, acquired by the Michigan State University Museum. The traveling exhibit showcases the textile collections of the late Cuesta Benberry, one of the twentieth-century’s pioneers of research on American quilt making, and a forerunner in research on African American quiltmaking.

Several dozen quilts are included in the exhibit in addition to an interactive children’s area, and books, video, and collectables on quilting. Historically prominent quilt makers featured include: Carole Harris, Hazel Carter, Fanny Cork, Minnie Benberry, Faith Ringgold, and the Gees Bend Freedom’s Quilting Bee to name a few. Also included is a quilt created in 1876 by Mary Stanford.

“Every collection reflects a point of view, a passion, a mindful purpose of the collector who made it,” explains Marsha MacDowell, MSU Museum curator of Folk Arts and MSU professor of Art and Art history. “In literally unpacking a scholar’s collection, a museum or an archive has a responsibility to care for, research, interpret, and make accessible the contents of the collection. It is when a collection—its parts and its whole—is figuratively unpacked, that we can learn more about the scholar and the subjects they researched.”

“Unpacking Collections: The Legacy of Cuesta Benberry, an African American Quilt Scholar celebrates one of the nation’s preeminent scholars and archivists of African American quilts. This quilt exhibit of her own personal collection of quilts and artifacts is not only historically significant, it is also visually stunning,” said Leslie Guy, Chief Curator, DuSable Museum.

Benberry had a long association with the MSU Museum, the home of the Great Lakes Quilt Center, and when she passed away in 2007 her family gave the Michigan State University Museum her collection of African and African American quilts and her quilt history.

In 2009, the American Folk Art Museum in New York City transferred its Benberry Collection 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.

“We are excited to bring and present this unique and groundbreaking exhibit to the DuSable. It represents our forward-looking vision for the Museum, and in turn celebrates our past. The exhibit is in keeping with our mission to recognize the impact of Africa and African American history on the entire country, and to educate our visitors on the cultural and historical aspects of our community,” said Perri Irmer, President and CEO of DuSable.

Unpacking Collections: The Legacy of Cuesta Benberry, an African American Quilt Scholar is made possible by a Creative Inclusive Excellence Grant from the Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives at Michigan State University with additional support from an anonymous gift.

The DuSable Museum of African American History is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. and Sunday from noon until 5:00 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults ($8 for Chicago residents), $7 for students and senior citizens ($5 for Chicago residents), $3 for children ages 6 through 11 ($2 for Chicago residents), with children 5 years of age and under admitted free), and free admission on Sundays. The Museum may be reached by CTA buses #3, #4 and #55.

About The DuSable Museum of African American History

The DuSable Museum of African American History is one of the oldest institutions of its kind in the country. The mission is to promote understanding and inspire appreciation of the achievements, contributions and experiences of African Americans through exhibits, programs and activities that illustrate African and African American history, culture and art. The DuSable Museum is a Smithsonian Institution Affiliate. For more information on the Museum and its programs, please call (773) 947-0600 or visit www.dusablemuseum. The DuSable Museum of African American History gratefully acknowledges the Chicago Park District’s partnership, and also thanks United Airlines, the official airline of the DuSable Museum, for its support.

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