We are often asked which Library of Congress primary source is our favorite. We could never choose just one, but this week, I highlight an especially intriguing or engaging primary source from the Library’s online collections.
Just like my colleagues on the Library of Congress education team, I have a number of favorite items within the collections. However, instead of focusing on one item, I’m going to focus on a question: “What makes a quilt pretty?”
As one of the crafters on the team, I find myself drawn to the folklife collections, especially Quilts and Quiltmaking in America. I love listening to the interviews with the Blue Ridge quilters and looking at the amazing prize-winning quilts from the Lands’ End All American Quilt contest. When teachers ask about using primary sources when teaching math, I always point to this collection.
But one day as I was preparing to use this collection in a workshop, I looked at the subject headings and saw the word “Aesthetics.” Intrigued, I clicked on the word and found myself looking at a listing of responses to the question, “What Makes a Quilt Pretty?” When I clicked on the first entry I expected to hear a discussion on color and pattern. And the first part of the answer touched on these areas. But as the discussion continued, the focus changed from color and pattern to the workmanship of the quilts, especially the size of the stitches and how the patterns were cut and shaped. I was fascinated and found myself looking at beauty in a totally different way.
I’m not quite sure how I would incorporate this into a classroom activity, but I think it would provide a great start for a lesson on perception. How might you use this in your teaching? I look forward to reading your comments!