About special collections
Merry Silber began her collecting career in the field of fine art prints and thought of quilts simply as bed coverings or furniture moving pads. In the 1970s, however, she saw her daughter Julie Silber's [formerly of Mary Strickler's Quilt Shop, now of Quilt Complex, Inc., Albion, California] walls covered with many fabulous flea market finds. Until that time she "had no idea of the value, beauty, artistry of American patchwork quilts. "With the unflagging support of my husband Al, I found a new love and a new career late in life. At the time it was somewhat surprising to me that the transition from my deep involvement with the world of theater, music and art would be so easy, but when you think about it, quilts are indeed dramatic, rhythmical and painterly!" In her collecting, Merry looks for works that attract her, and she is drawn to the "design, color, artistry and originality of these wonderful artists who put together wonderful designs out of scraps of fabrics. The quilt is a huge canvas to express yourself." Since her entrance into the quilt collecting world, Merry Silber has also curated 31 major quilt shows and has lectured, appraised and judged quilt shows all over the country.
Merry's collection is composed of primarily mid- to late-19th century quilts, mostly anonymously produced. Collected by Merry for the high quality of workmanship and the early, rare, and mint-condition fabrics found in them, the quilts are textbook examples of many early quiltmaking styles and techniques, as well as a source for hundreds of fabrics that tell the story of the American textile industry. From this collection, the Silbers have donated 32 quilts, tops, and blocks to the Michigan State University Museum. These works now represent the finest examples of mid-19th century quilts in the museum's collection and include an unquilted bed cover made from a salesman's sample book of mint-condition chintz fabrics ca. 1800s and a wool and linen bar quilt dating to 1825.
In addition to the donation of quilts, Merry has been a strong advocate for the involvement of other collectors in the Michigan Quilt Project. Her encouragement of other collectors to consider donating quilts to the museum has resulted in the acquisition of several other outstanding quilts, such as "Aunt Clemy's Ribbon Quilt," as well as entire collections such as the Durkee-Blakeslee-Quarton-Hoard collection.
-- by Lynne Swanson [excerpt from Marsha MacDowell, ed., Great Lakes, Great Quilts. Concord, California: C&T Publishing, 2001]
Click to view the Quilt Treasures Profile of Merry Silber