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THE HISTORY MUSEUM BLOG: Winter program series to focus on preserving family stories

By CONNIE NICE

Coordinator, The History Museum

Many of you know that I am very passionate about the topic of collecting, preserving and sharing of stories. These stories could be family or personal, or be related to a specific artifact or photograph. I hope that you have been taking time over the holiday months to document and share your own family stories.

This theme has inspired us to establish the theme for our 2013 Winter Program Series. These fun and educational programs will be held on Tuesday evenings at 6:30 p.m. starting Jan. 8 and run 11 weeks. Carly Squyres, our education and volunteer coordinator, has been busy outlining a fantastic slate of special speakers and programs covering a wide variety of topics related to honoring and remembering our stories. Check out the website for more information on this series and plan now to attend.

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So, in keeping with this thought, I wanted to share my personal story of a quilt that took more than 20 years to complete. When my son, who is now 27, was about 5 years old he had to have his tonsils and adenoids removed. The surgery had some complications and we were looking at him being home from school for several weeks.

Once he was up and around, he still couldn’t talk much. At that time in our lives, we had chosen to not have a television, so we decided to start a special activity to help relieve his boredom as he recovered. Aaron loved art, color and design. We selected the trip around the world quilt pattern and spent hours each day digging through my prolific fabric collection selecting and cutting squares for the quilt.

Once we had all the pieces cut, Aaron would sit and put the squares in pattern and color order and then hand them to me to sew. By the end of his recuperation, he went back to school and I went back to work. The finished quilt top went in a box.

Several years later, I was talking to my mother-in-law about this quilt and how I wanted to get it hand quilted and she offered to do that for me. We set it up in her living room that fall. She would sit for hours and hand quilt while watching Wheel of Fortune. We talked many times about how beautiful the quilt would be once it was done.

She was about two-thirds of the way finished when she took ill. After several weeks in the hospital critical care ward, she passed away. The quilt top was taken out of the quilting frame and once again packed away.

While I do know how to hand quilt, I just couldn’t bring myself to finish it without Meg. Years passed, our kids grew, and we eventually moved to the Columbia Gorge.

One day a group of my friends were admiring one of my quilts. They said they would love to have me teach them how to hand quilt. I thought about it and decided to dig out that same quilt top and use it as a teaching quilt for this group of ladies. My mother-in-law taught so many ladies how to sew and quilt over the years that I thought it would be a fitting honor to her legacy to use it to teach and pass on what she had so lovingly taught me over the years.

I knew that the beginning quilters’ stitches would not be small and perfectly spaced like Mom’s, but it really didn’t matter to me. What mattered was passing on Meg’s love of the craft and the story of the quilt.

Over the next few years, many hands touched that quilt top, carrying on a tradition that dates back to the beginning of our country and our community pioneers.

A few months ago, I came across that quilt top again and determined to finally complete its transformation into a finished and beautiful quilt. Now it graces the bed in my guest room awaiting a visit from family or friends to our home.

A quilt, to me, is such a unique utilitarian household object. You take stacks of fabric — some of which have been cut from old clothes — and cut them into little pieces; only to sew them back into a larger piece. Then take a tiny needle and tiny stitches and sew it all together to make something truly beautiful.

There are as many different quilts as there are people to make and enjoy them. I have quilts in my house that were made by my grandmother more than 100 years ago. I also have a box of quilt blocks that my mother-in-law had pieced but never included in a finished quilt. In these blocks, I can recognize some of the dresses and shirts that she sewed for herself and her family. She used to say she was sewing love when she made a quilt.

I hope this little story has inspired you in your own story telling. But I also hope it encourages you to attend our Winter Program Series. And if you do attend, at some point I will share the last little bit of my story about the trip-around-the-world quilt that took over 20 years to make.

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The History Museum is continuing our story. We have undergone a fantastic transformation and we’re just weeks away from opening. We have set our ribbon-cutting ceremony for Sunday, Jan. 6, from 2-4 p.m. Please join us as we commemorate all we have accomplished with your help — and celebrate our exciting future.

So what’s next for The History Museum? We will be tweaking and finishing up our new exhibits for months yet to come and hope to add some fairly significant additions if grant funding allows. The Luhr Jensen & Sons gallery will be completed in 2013 as well, and will be a wonderful addition to the story of our local community.

Now that we have accomplished Phase I, we are quickly looking forward to Phase II and our extreme need to provide a long-term storage facility for our growing artifact collection. Currently we’ve moved the artifacts off-site while the construction was being done. Many items have come back and have been incorporated into the new displays, but we need an adequate storage facility to house these items permanently and safely. This will be a simple, cost-effective structure semi-attached to the north end of the current museum building.

If you are considering a year-end charitable gift, please keep The History Museum in mind to help us move forward. You can give online through the donation tab on our photo blog site (www.historichoodriver.com), or mail a check to The History Museum, P.O. Box 781, Hood River, OR 97031.

Exciting things are happening at The History Museum and we can’t wait for you to join us as we move into the next chapter of our story. Hope to see you on Jan. 6 and then on the 8th for the first program night.

So for now ... from my desk, I wish you all a Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas.

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