National Quilt Register

The National Quilt Register is an online database and central resource for the Australian quilting community.  It provides digital access to quilts held in public and private collections throughout Australia. The quilts on the register vary in age, style, materials, manufacture, function and provenance. They hold important stories about the history and heritage of quilts and quilt making in Australia.  The NQR is now hosted by the National Wool Museum.

History of the National Quilt Register

The National Quilt Register was a major initiative of the Pioneer Women's Hut.

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 - and 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 Quilt Register, an on-line register of Australia quilts.

excerpt from the National Quilt Register

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 was 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.

quilt made by Grace Nicholas around 1851 - from the National Quilt Register

The National Quilt Register was 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:
  • Quilts on the register range from early in the 19th century until about 1965, the cut off date
  • 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.
The original NQR website was made accessible via the Australian Museums and Galleries Online (AMOL) project, an initiative of the Heritage Collections Committee. Hosted by the Powerhouse Museum, AMOL maintained a national museum directory and federated search function. In 2005, AMOL was superseded by the Collections Australia Network (CAN), a continuation of the project with expanded scope and greater focus on community and regional museums.

Despite its success and pioneering work in transforming access to cultural heritage, CAN lost financial support and its closure was announced in 2014. The NQR was subsequently archived on Trove, an online database aggregator maintained by the National Library of Australia. This meant that although the website was not live, the records and information it once held could still be accessed by the public.

The National Wool Museum entered discussions with Pioneer Women’s Hut, Museums and Galleries New South Wales, and the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (formerly the Powerhouse Museum), to devise a plan to reinstate the NQR. With the full support of these stakeholders, the National Wool Museum was able to secure funding from the Gordon Darling Foundation to revive the project. This version of the NQR was launched in June 2017, and is operated by a dedicated group of volunteers based in Victoria. The National Wool Museum is delighted to be able to return the NQR to the quilters of Australia.