University of Nebraska quilt center receives $8 million gift for expansion, endowment

April 25, 2013

The thousands of guests from around the world who annually visit the Quilt House – home to the International Quilt Study Center and Museum at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln – now can look forward to seeing even more inside thanks to a planned expansion of the museum made possible by a generous private gift.

The Robert and Ardis James Foundation has made a $7 million gift to the University of Nebraska Foundation’s Campaign for Nebraska for expansion of the Quilt House, 1523 N. 33rd St. on UNL’s East Campus. The expansion will involve an addition on the west side of the building of about 12,400 square feet and will feature new gallery space for more exhibitions as well as additional room for quilt collection storage and care, education and museum operations.

Robert James said Quilt House is dedicated to the people of Nebraska, to quilt lovers and to those around the world who have helped recognize quilts as true art.

"It is helping the world comprehend a previously underappreciated form of art," James said. "That’s what it’s done, and that's what Ardis and I always had in mind."

In addition to funding the expansion, the Robert and Ardis James Foundation donated $1 million to establish a permanent endowment at the NU Foundation. Annual net income from the endowment will be used to provide a stipend to the Quilt House executive director for salary, research or program support. The director will be known as the Ardis James Executive Director of Quilt House.

“Bob and Ardis James recognized that the University of Nebraska had the potential to become an international leader in the study and exhibition of quilts – and because of their generosity, that dream has become a reality," said NU President James B. Milliken. “I am deeply grateful for their additional investment in the University of Nebraska’s International Quilt Study Center and Museum, which will allow us to do even more to enhance the cultural life of the state and attract visitors from all around the world to Nebraska."

UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman said: “Because of the vision and generosity of Bob and Ardis James, our university has become the most important place for the scholarly study, research and curated exhibition of quilts as an international art form. We are extremely grateful for their support of Quilt House over the years and for making another important investment."

Pat Crews, founding director of Quilt House, said the public’s interest in the museum, its exhibitions, educational offerings and unique mission continues to grow.

“Our guests have loved what they’ve been able to experience and learn here, but they’re eager to see even more," Crews said. “With the new expansion, we’ll have additional room for our popular exhibitions as well as increased space for our diverse collections and research. We cannot thank the James family enough for making this possible."

University officials said the building expansion will take place once architectural studies and designs are finalized later this year and construction bids are complete.

Quilt House opened its 37,000-square-foot building in 2008 with three exhibition galleries and state-of-the-art textiles storage as an international focal point for the study, conservation and exhibition of quilts. Robert A.M. Stern Architects of New York, with Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture of Omaha, designed the building. The same architects will design the new addition.

The $12 million facility was funded with more than 260 contributions to the University of Nebraska Foundation, including a leadership gift from the Robert and Ardis James Foundation. More than 130 quilt guilds, as well as quilt organizations in six other countries, provided gifts toward the building campaign.

The International Quilt Study Center within Quilt House was founded in 1997 when the Jameses, who are Nebraska natives, began donating their extensive quilt collection. They have since donated more than 1,000 quilts.

Ardis M. Butler James grew up in Lincoln and Omaha and married Robert G. James of Ord in 1949. They raised three children, Robert Jr., Catherine and Ralph, and made their home in Chappaqua, N.Y. Ardis James died on July 7, 2011.

Quilt House and the quilt center, whose academic home is the Department of Textiles, Merchandising and Fashion Design in the College of Education and Human Sciences, offers the only academic program of its kind dedicated to inspiring an understanding of the cultural and artistic significance of quilts and promoting the scholarly study and research of global quilt-making traditions. It holds more than 3,500 quilts, the largest publicly owned collection of quilts, and is the most diverse collection in existence, with representative quilts from more than 24 countries. For more information, visit

The University of Nebraska Foundation is an independent, nonprofit organization raising private gifts to support the University of Nebraska. In 2012, donors provided $165 million for scholarships, medical and other research, academic programs, faculty and buildings. All foundation funds are donor designated. The foundation's comprehensive fundraising campaign, the Campaign for Nebraska, has raised more than $1.2 billion and concludes in 2014. For more information, visit

Media Contact:
Melissa Lee
Director of Communications,
University of Nebraska