In stitches

For some, telling a story means using words, but for Oren Dunn Museum Director Kenneth McGehee, he sees stories in pieces of fabric.
McGehee is helping tell the story of Tupelo and Lee County through the museum’s latest exhibit, “How to Make a Tupelo Quilt.” The exhibit features more than 50 quilts, many of them on loan from the community.
“Take the different wards (of Tupelo) – when you take them apart and put them together, it’s like making a quilt,” he said.
McGehee and his staff asked the community to loan their quilts to the museum for the exhibit, and the response was overwhelming, he said.
There isn’t enough room at the museum to display every quilt, so they’re being rotated every few days to ensure every quilt gets plenty of display time.
“We have some incredible stories here,” McGehee said.

Some of those stories include McGehee’s own.
“One was made by my great-grandma. She sent it to my mom and dad to celebrate my birth,” he said.
Another story is that of Tupelo resident Opah Harris, who, according to McGehee, hand-stitched her quilts as a means of therapy. Some of her quilts are on display at the museum.
Five of the quilts are from the museum’s own collection. Two of those are called “crazy” quilts. While more modern quilts follow specific patterns, there is no pattern to the random patches on the “crazy” quilts. The pieces are from the late 1800s and no one knows who created them, McGehee said.
“That’s what I love about quilts – it’s like, tell me your story. I’m listening,” he said.
The oldest quilts in the exhibit are the crazy quilts, and the newest quilts were made recently, he said.
To tie in the community even further with the quilts, McGehee took the rules for quiltmaking from Whitney Otto’s novel “How to Make An American Quilt” and likened them to community-building.
Also a part of the exhibit is information and a video from the Mississippi Department of Human Services about being a foster parent. Fostering or adopting a child is a part of creating a community, McGehee said.
“Even if one person spends time looking at this and decides to foster or adopt a child, we’ve achieved a wonderful thing,” he said.
This is the second year the museum has featured a quilt exhibit.

Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal

Click video to hear audio