OHS’ damaged Afro-American quilt sent off for restoration


Original backing replaced due to stain

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The historic quilt belonging to the Oregon Historical Society that was damaged during a night of violence last month has been sent off for restorations.

OHS’ Afro-American Heritage Bicentennial Commemorative Quilt was taken from the museum during what some protesters referred to as “Indigenous Peoples Day of Rage” — a demonstration against centuries of violence against indigenous populations.

The quilt was removed from its temporary display in the OHS pavilion, where it was on exhibit. It was found several blocks away the next morning by Portland Police officers. OHS Executive Director Kerry Tymchuk reported at the time that the quilt was very wet but was confident it would be put on display again.

According to OHS, museum staff were able to dry the quilt to prevent mold and microbial growth. After drying it was cleaned with a variable-speed, HEPA filter vacuum through a screen to prevent force or damage to the textile.

Afro-American Heritage Bicentennial Commemorative Quilt before damage (OHS)

The museum then sent the quilt to the Textile Conservation Workshop, a New York-based non-profit organization focused on the preservation of textiles.

“After consulting with […] the last living quilter from the original group, OHS has decided to attempt to restore the front of the quilt as much as possible,” OHS said in a release Tuesday. Museum officials said the backing of the quilt will be removed and replaced because of a stain. “The original backing will remain in the OHS collection as its own museum object, with the history of the vandalism captured and added to its story.”

Each square of the quilt, crafted from 1974 to 1976 in honor of the American Bicentennial, honors a Black individual or moment in history. Fifteen Black women from Portland sewed the quilt, who later donated it to OHS.

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