San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles

The first museum in the United States to focus exclusively on quilts and textiles as an art form, the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles, was founded in 1977. With compelling exhibitions of historical and contemporary textiles, engaging gallery walks and artist talks for adults, and a highly successful educational outreach program for K-12 students, we aim to increase the public’s awareness, understanding, and appreciation of quilts and textiles as a form of artistic and cultural expression that peoples worldwide have practiced for thousands of years.

Location and Hours[]

The San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles is located in the heart of San Jose's SoFA District at
520 South First Street
San Jose, California

The Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday 10am to 5pm. On the first Friday of each month the Museum is also open from 8pm to 11pm along with other museums and art galleries in the SoFA. Admission is Free on First Fridays.

The Museum's Mission[]

The San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles has a mission to promote the art, craft and history of quilts and textiles.

Textile art transcends cultural, ethnic, age and gender boundaries and encompasses traditional as well as contemporary forms. The museum provides a serious venue for all artists working with textiles, filling a void left by larger institutions with a narrower view of what defines artistic expression. Its exhibits and programs promote the appreciation of quilts and textiles as art and provide an understanding of their role in the lives of their makers, in cultural traditions, and as historical documents.

The Human Experience[]

Cloth is at the core of human experience. Every culture throughout history has had a textile tradition through which people learned about and sustained their social, civic and religious rituals. As largely a woman’s tradition, quilting became a primary vehicle for women’s social, political and artistic expression when other forms of expression were not available to them. It was during the 1970s, when the women's movement and the feminist art movement came to full flower, that a new breed of artists, often formally educated, began choosing fiber as a fine art medium, challenging assumptions about both the intent and the content of textile art forms.

The Collection[]

The Museum’s permanent collection consists of some 550 quilts, garments and ethnic textiles, along with a research library of approximately 500 volumes on the history, making, and exhibition of quilts and textiles supports the collection. For the first decade, the collection was built primarily with gifts of late 19th and early 20th century quilts from members of the founding organization.

In 1999, the Museum acquired the Porcella Collection of ethnic textiles and garments, which increased its holdings by about one-third. At a time when 61% of San Jose's community members are either foreign born or the children of people born elsewhere, representing 176 of the world's nations, the Museum’s collection is a valuable resource for helping people share the fabrics of their lives.

The substantial Lucy Hilty Quilt Collection was recently added to the permanent collection. Hilty was one of the founding members of the American Quilt Study Group and served on that group's board of directors during its formative years. She also participated in a Berkeley-area group called the Crazy Quilters.

A key objective is for the collection to recognize and reflect the central role played by Bay Area artists in the quilting and textile arts revival in the second half of the 20th century. The collection currently contains representative pieces of many renowned local and national artists, and the Museum plans to continue to develop its holdings in contemporary art forms.

At the same time, central to its mission to promote the art, craft and history of quilts and textiles, the Museum plans to continue to grow its holdings of historical quilts and ethnic textiles. San Jose and the greater Bay Area include people from a majority of the world’s cultures, and each of these cultures sustains textile-based traditions. The Museum sees as its mandate the documentation and preservation of world textile traditions as well as current trends in the textile arts.

Since moving to its permanent home at 520 South First Street, the Museum has undertaken a concerted campaign to install a new archival compact storage system, to digitally document the collection, and to prepare the collection for growth. The Museum invites you to become involved in these efforts, and looks forward to assisting the community in its understanding and appreciation of all textile-based art forms.


Identified by the San Jose Mercury News in 2005 as one of San Jose’s top 10 attractions, the Museum attracts approximately 12,000 visitors annually and reaches 8,000 K-12 students and their families each school year through its highly successful in-school programs.

With the move to its newly renovated facility at 520 South First in July 2005, the Museum anchors SoFA--San Jose’s arts and entertainment district. The Museum provides meaningful art experiences for a broad cross-section of the community, the Museum offers:

  • Ambitious exhibitions in its multiple galleries;
  • Exhibit-related programs for adults;
  • Kids Create on the first Sunday of each month from 2-3:30pm; children ages 5 to 10 listen to stories about textile traditions around the world and participate in fiber art-making activities;
  • South First Fridays, the Museum is open and free to the public during normal Museum hours and from 8pm until 11pm the First Friday of each month.


Exhibitions at the Museum have included contemporary and historic works, tapestries, quilts and traditional folk art. The Museum's exhibitions have included:

  • Navajo Weaving in the Present Tense: The Art of Lucy and Ellen Begay
  • Poetic License: The Art of Joan Schulze
  • Still Crazy
  • Reincarnation: The Crazy Collage Aesthetic of India & Japan
  • The World According to Joyce Gross: Quilts from the Dolph Briscoe Center Fabric Tattoos: The Spirit of the Mola
  • Reservoir: John M. Walsh III Collects Connections: Small Tapestry International
  • Changing Landscapes: Contemporary Chinese Fiber Art
  • Visible Presence: Polly Barton
  • Charged Sites: Radka Donnell’s Art Quilts ‘Til Death Do Us Part: Wedding Quilts from the Collection
  • Beyond Knitting: Uncharted Stitche Pun Intended: The Appliquéd Wit of Dorothy Vance In Javanese Moonlight: Sha Sha Higby in Transition Crocheted Reef and Anemone Garden
  • Core Memory/Peripheral Vision Pixels & Pieces Advanced Geometry: Gloria Hansen
  • Marian Clayden: The Dyer's Hand Susan Taber Avila: Shoescapes
  • Saturn Returns: Back to the Future of Fiber Art 30th Anniversary Exhibition
  • Benefit Silent Auction
  • Weavings of War: Fabrics of Memory
  • Woven Witness: Afghan War Rugs and Afghan Freedom Quilt Patriot Art
  • American Tapestry Biennial 6 showcases an unprecedented variety of contemporary hand-woven tapestries. This juried international exhibition includes 42 tapestries woven by artists from thirteen countries.
  • Quilt National Demonstrating the transformations taking place in the world of quilting, Quilt National is a biannual travelling exhibition. Its purpose is to carry the definition of quilting far beyond its traditional parameters and to promote quiltmaking as what it always has been -- an art form
  • Ao Dai: A Modern Design Coming of Age which included an appearance by Chloe Dao, winner of Bravo TV's "Project Runway"
  • Art About Art: Weavings From Virginia Davis
  • Between the Curtains: Bob Freimark’s Czech Romance, 1970-1995
  • In the Garden of Wishes a collection of mixed media sculptures by Corinne Okada
  • Insecurity: An Installation by Julie John Upshaw
  • Jean Ray Laury: A Life By Design
  • Katherine Westerhout: After/Image
  • Outside the Box: Quilts with Character
  • Put a Roof Over Our Head: Quilts from the Alliance for American Quilts
  • The Etiquette of Form: Fiber Art by Fran Skiles

History of the Museum[]

In 1977, the Santa Clara Valley Quilt Association first opened the American Museum of Quilts and Related Arts in a storefront in Los Altos. The Museum has since operated in a shopping center in Saratoga, an old San Jose Spanish Colonial home, and several leased storefronts downtown while searching for a permanent home. The Museum was incorporated in 1986 as a nonprofit public benefit museum, administered under the direction of a community-based Board of Trustees.

In late 2003, the Museum partnered with East Bay venture philanthropists headed by Steven H. Oliver, president of the board of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and formed the 520 South First Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) to purchase and renovate a historic property. This 13,000 square-foot facility originally built in 1923 opened in September, 2005 as the Museum’s permanent home. The LLC received a $1.3 million interest- free, forgivable loan from the San Jose Redevelopment Agency and additional grants to rehabilitate the property as an anchor institution in the burgeoning arts and entertainment district known as SoFA, the southern gateway to downtown San Jose.

1977 – The American Museum of Quilts and Related Arts is founded by the Santa Clara Valley Quilt Association as the first quilt museum in the United States.

1984 – The Museum purchases a small Spanish Colonial house on South 2nd Street in San Jose and stays for ten years, growing its permanent collection and program schedule.

1986 – The Museum becomes a public benefit corporation separate from the Association; hires its first paid Executive Director; changes its name to the American Museum of Quilts & Textiles.

1987 – The Museum launches its Educational Outreach program with a curriculum-based program for 5th grade students that weaves the stories of real people from American history with the development of historical quilt patterns. The program has been recognized for “Best Practices in Arts” by Young Audiences of San Jose and Silicon Valley.

1994 – The Museum sells the house on 2nd Street to move to a more central downtown location, beginning more than ten years of occupying a series of rented storefronts around downtown San Jose.

1997 – To establish a sense of place with its identity, the museum changes its name to the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles.

1998 – The Museum introduces an education program for 2nd grade students with a hands-on artmaking component.

1999 – The Museum acquires the Porcella Collection of ethnic textiles and garments, bringing its collection to some 450 pieces: 70% quilts from 1880-1940; 10% quilts from 1950-present; 20% ethnic textiles and wearable art.

2003 – The Museum partners with venture philanthropists to form the 520 South First LLC to buy and renovate a historic property – a 13,000 square- foot facility originally built in 1923.

2005 – Grand Opening at 520 South First Street with the inaugural exhibition, Traditions in Transition: Three Views of the Permanent Collection, the first extensive exhibition of the museum’s holdings.

2006 – The Museum begins participation in South First Fridays, staying open late for an evening of arts and culture in downtown San Jose’s SoFA arts district. The Museum is free of charge on the First Friday of each month.

2006 – The Museum launches Kids Create, a very popular monthly arts and cultural enrichment program for children ages 5–10.

See also[]