This week, I pulled through Paducah, Kentucky while I was on my way back to school for the semester. As I sat in the driver seat, I repeated the funny sounding town’s name under my breath to the detriment of everyone in the car, “Puh-doo-ka. Puh-dooooo-kah. Puh-doo-ka.”
My eyes read over the passing green signs along the side of the road which listed the restaurants, gas stations and any other attractions that might exist in the local area. The usual McDonalds, Shell Stations and Taco Bells were flashing unremarkably below my gaze. Then, all of the sudden, it was listed: The National Quilt Museum. Blown away, I could not believe that an entire museum exists for the sole purpose of quilt appreciation. Who would want to go look at a bunch of blankets all afternoon?
Now, perhaps I am completely uncultured and should have known about such a place. Maybe any grandmother in the United States can tell you that The National Quilt Museum is in Paducah, Kentucky, open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. But I doubt that is the case. The intense specialization on something about which I had never thought critically is what ended up standing out to me more than anything. I’ll say it: I don’t currently have a particularly grand passion for quilts. They’re nice to snuggle up under but in my world, that is about as big a place as quilts have. However, while I kept on driving, it wasn’t the quilts themselves that began to completely occupy my thoughts. What I could not stop thinking about were the individual lives devoted to the preservation of those cloths. Any national institution such as the one I passed must have intensely dedicated, driven and passionate individuals furthering their respective causes. After realizing the endless number of hours people gave to something I initially scoffed at, I began to feel ashamed. As I continued down the road, I wished that I was not on a tight travel schedule. I wanted to stop in so that I could rectify the disrespect to individuals’ passions which I had produced, just because those passions didn’t initially align with my own or those of popular culture on a surface level. By making a concerted effort to actively consider the degree of human effort that is imbued in all of our surroundings, I believe a new degree of wonder and, ultimately, a secret happiness can be attained.
With this in mind, I began to think about the enormously encouraging message that an institution such as The National Quilt Museum presents: follow your passions. A museum like that points out the amount of creative space which can be manifested around any general interest, even if it might not be the most popular. In a world where it is far too easy to be tempted into the clutches of conformity, we all need to do a better job of taking time to appreciate the examples within our world of individual efforts that go against the grain. Somebody loved quilts so much that they spearheaded an effort which resulted in a nationally recognized museum that has now been functioning for 30 years. Regardless of your opinion of quilts, that point alone should create a sense of awe within.
Earlier tonight, I went to The National Quilt Museum’s website and was astonished by the amount of resources, classes and information which has been curated by the institution. The National Quilt Museum clearly conveys a message in regards to conformity and the possibility to truly pursue that which interests us.
However, the amount of information which can be found surrounding quilts on the website also further serves as a remarkable example of the jaw-dropping amount of information and academic study which has gone into so much of the world which we might not have considered. One thing is for certain, next time I am in Paducah, I am going to the National Quilt Museum.