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About the National Quilt Register

group at Pioneer Women's Hut

The Pioneer Women's Hut; a free self-funded museums run by community volunteers

The National Quilt Register is a major initiative of the Pioneer Women's Hut, a museum located at Tumbarumba at the foothills to the Snowy Mountains in southern NSW, Australia.

The museum represents ordinary rural families, especially the women, in their everyday lives. It opened in 1985 and is a free, self funded museum run by community volunteers.

The collection is shown in changing themes relating to domestic life and women's other roles as 'another pair of hands' and in earning cash income: Coping with flies, Time for fancywork, Mondays, Never Done, Caring for Clothes and many more.

It is our policy to collect domestic objects relating to rural families, especially the women and by gathering the stories put these objects in the context of their lives. We recognise the great diversity of women's lives and from the first days of settlement, the very different ethnic origins that give us our Australian identity as women. We acknowledge the major contribution of Aboriginal women, especially in understanding the environment and remind our visitors they were our first needlewomen.

Professor Donald Horne in 'The Intelligent Tourist' cites the Pioneer Women's Hut as the most innovative small museum in Australia.

Feeding the calves

Feeding the calves, Bradvale, Victoria. Photo courtesy Dora Murray

Coping with flies display

Part of the display 'Coping with Flies'

Time for fancywork display

Part of the display 'Time for Fancywork'


In adopting a national role the Pioneer Women's Hut has been involved in State and Federal advocacy on behalf of country museums - published 3 books and a leaflet about women's lives - actively encouraged women to care for their own heritage - launched a major initiative to celebrate the fact that we had been open for 10 years and to once again give ordinary women a voice, THE NATIONAL QUIILT REGISTER.

more about the NQR

Old quilts of all types have always been about memories and women's hidden, often unspoken, language. They carry stories about our history and about needlework and provide a rich insight into women's lives. In the National Quilt Register women tell their own stories, some for the first time, about love, despair, managing, surviving, adversity, friendship, endurance. The quilts stay where they are and the stories are shared.

The NQR has been a huge effort over 5 years by volunteers from all parts of the country co-ordinated by The Pioneer Women's Hut. Early estimates were that there may be 500 to 600 old quilts in Australia, but as we passed the 1,000 mark we know we have just touched the tip of the iceberg.

You are now on the web site of the National Quilt Register and can search the stories and the types of quilts from early in the 19th century until about 1965, the cut off date. It's a friendly, easy to use site and thanks to volunteers Australia wide and to AMOL (Australian Museums On Line) this site now belongs to the women of Australia.

The National Quilt Register has been supported by major museums and heritage organisations, quilting and embroidery groups, regional museums, women's groups and individuals across the country. Women joining with other women to record our history through quilts. Here are some things to remember about the Register:

  • It is a research register with many layers of information

  • A core premise of the NQR is that all quilts are equally significant, from the finely stitched decorative ones to the humble, functional ones made for warmth

  • The register covers quilts with stories and quilts where the stories are lost

  • All registration forms have been filled in by owners of quilts and we accepted absolutely what is on the form.

so many people to thank

To the women of the Pioneer Women's Hut who kept the home fires burning while some of us concentrated on this all consuming project. Thank you especially to Elsie Shephard, Kathy Lyons, Marion Douglas, Ellen Bradley and Colleen McAuliffe.

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Elsie Shephard

Kathy Lyons

Marion Douglas

Ellen Bradley

Colleen McAuliffe

Thank you to the Powerhouse Museum, responsible for the launch, and especially to Kimberley Webber who has encouraged us through the dark patches and so generously shared her knowledge and understanding of women's lives and the final processes from database to web site. Thank you to Christina Sumner for contributing to the National Quilt Register from the very beginning and especially sharing her wonderful knowledge of textiles. We also appreciate the interest and guidance of Judy Coombs and Julie Donaldson.

'Thank you' sounds so inadequate for friend and mentor, Kylie Winkworth, who has given such unfailing support to the Pioneer Women's Hut since before we opened in 1985 and more recently has helped guide the National Quilt Register.

There would not be a National Quilt Register without the many volunteers, some of whom acted as State co-ordinators and many of whom promoted the NQR in a variety of ways from taking photographs of quilts and helping women fill out forms. Very special warm thanks to State co-ordinators Morley Grainger of Toowoomba Queensland, Angela Nash of Light Pass South Australia, June Brown of Milawa Victoria and Judy Crain of Adelong NSW.

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Morley Grainger

Angela Nash

June Brown

Judy Crain

Lula Saunders

Special thanks to Lula Saunders who has so brilliantly recorded the Greek quilts and given us such a fine understanding of the quilt traditions and insights into women's lives in Greece and Australia.

Thank you Fabri Blacklock for your enthusiasm and research on the Aboriginal skin cloaks and for staying the distance with the overseas museums.

We have a lot to thank Sheridan Burke of the Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales for including the many times we drew on her knowledge of textiles and quilts and, in association with Annette Gero and the Quilt Study Group of Australia, Sydney branch, organising the 2 quilt registration days. Scott Carlin's original concept of a 'quilt tree' was a turning point in our approach to one.phpect of the register.

Thank you to the quilting groups that contributed to the NQR with generous much needed donations: The Hunter's Hill Quilters, The Wangaratta Centre Quilters, The Illawarra Quilters, The Murray River Quilters, the Canberra Quilters and the Textile Network ACT.

Many people brought their special expertise to the NQR and we especially want to thank: Dianne Finnegan, Kirsty Davies, Scott Carlin, Deirdre O'Donnell, Madeleine Scully, Shirley Norris, Bronny Handfield, Tim Handfield, Lainie Lawson, Zoe Scott and Claire McIntosh.

nswarts logoThank you to the NSW Ministry for the Arts who could see the vision and funded direct costs (telephone, postage, copy photographs, travel) for 3 years. It was an act of faith to fund a major national project initiated and co-ordinated by a small volunteer run museum. We hope you are amply rewarded.

To AMOL and especially Lee Adendorff who developed this website. Thank you Lee for your understanding of what we are trying to achieve and interpreting it brilliantly.

Finally, to all the institutions and individuals who have contributed to the register we thank you for your enthusiasm and understanding and sometimes patience. We have laughed together and on a couple of occasions cried together, we have shared stories of personal sickness and joy and stories about mothers and grandmothers and great-grandmothers' lives. This National Quilt Register belongs to the women of Australia.

Anne Thoroughgood
Wendy Hucker

The Pioneer Women's Hut and The National Quilt Register

TEL: (02) 6948 2635

hands_sml.jpg (9487 bytes) Postscript: We needed a pair of hands for the website and our thanks go to Dorothy McLean whose hands symbolise all women's needlework. Dorothy McLean has been a volunteer at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney since 1985. She has been making padded coathangers for the storage and display of garments ever since.


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