By Tim Leeds 

Swastika-like display causes controversy

 


Swastika-like display causes controversy

Symbol on 1920s quilt misinterpreted

Tim Leeds

A nearly century-old quilt raised some eyebrows at the Holiday Village Mall in Havre during December, and some discussion at the monthly meeting of the board of the county museum Monday.

The topic was a quilt made by residents of the Bear's Paw Mountains in the 1920s for an ill neighbor, which included the names of all the people who worked on the quilt embroidered on squares within the pattern.

The quilt was taken down from display after people walking through the mall complained to mall and mall store employees about the pattern — which resembled a broken cross, or swastika, used as a symbol of the German Nazi party in the 1930s and '40s.


"It was a very, very nice quilt and the story behind it was absolutely heartwarming …, " said Elaine Morse, chair of the board of the funding foundation for the H. Earl and Margaret Turner Clack Memorial Museum, said during the meeting of the museum's board. "It's a shame we didn't use that opportunity, as an educational museum, to enlighten people,



"So I think we missed an opportunity there, and just had a knee-jerk reaction to the symbolism, " Morse added.

Morse said she had the quilt in her possession, and would return it to the family who had loaned it to the museum. She said the family had loaned it probably through the summer, although she had told the woman to whom she spoke that the museum may not have the space to display it.


She added that, when museum board member Judi Dritshulas raised the idea of having a Christmas display, she thought the historical Hill County quilt would be a perfect addition.

Dritshulas was not able to attend Monday's meeting.

Morse said that once the misunderstandings about the quilt arose, it would have been a perfect time to educate people about it.

"It might have been helpful to have had a larger print sign that said, 'This is not a swastika, if you want to understand it come to the museum', " she said.

She said after the meeting that Anna Brumley had written and printed the description of the quilt that was displayed with it.

John Gilbert, manager of the museum, said after he heard about the complaints, he offered to move the quilt from where it was displayed — in a window in the mall commons area — to an open display cabinet within the museum, along with a detailed description of the quilt's history and creation in 1927.



"I was told to just take it down, " he said.

Bud Baldwin, chair of the museum board, said the quilt, hung as part of the Christmas in the Museum display put up in December, was taken down due to the complaints.

"Under the circumstances, " it seemed appropriate to remove the quilt, he said.

Gilbert said part of the problem was that people were complaining to people from other businesses, who told Gilbert they couldn't take time from their own business days to explain the museum's displays to the customers.

"The problem with the quilt was not that people were coming in the museum to complain about it. In fact, people didn't come in, " he said.

Museum board member Gary Wilson said he would like to see the quilt put back on display, with a detailed explanation of its history.

He and others at the meeting discussed the historical significance of the broken cross symbol, used from prehistoric times and appearing both in the Old and New worlds, which appears in displays of many cultures in museums around the world.

A nearly century-old quilt raised some eyebrows at the Holiday Village Mall in Havre during December, and some discussion at the monthly meeting of the board of the county museum Monday.

The topic was a quilt made by residents of the Bear's Paw Mountains in the 1920s for an ill neighbor, which included the names of all the people who worked on the quilt embroidered on squares within the pattern.

The quilt was taken down from display after people walking through the mall complained to mall and mall store employees about the pattern — which resembled a broken cross, or swastika, used as a symbol of the German Nazi party in the 1930s and '40s.

"It was a very, very nice quilt and the story behind it was absolutely heartwarming …, " said Elaine Morse, chair of the board of the funding foundation for the H. Earl and Margaret Turner Clack Memorial Museum, said during the meeting of the museum's board. "It's a shame we didn't use that opportunity, as an educational museum, to enlighten people,

"So I think we missed an opportunity there, and just had a knee-jerk reaction to the symbolism, " Morse added.

Morse said she had the quilt in her possession, and would return it to the family who had loaned it to the museum. She said the family had loaned it probably through the summer, although she had told the woman to whom she spoke that the museum may not have the space to display it.

She added that, when museum board member Judi Dritshulas raised the idea of having a Christmas display, she thought the historical Hill County quilt would be a perfect addition.

Dritshulas was not able to attend Monday's meeting.

Morse said that once the misunderstandings about the quilt arose, it would have been a perfect time to educate people about it.

"It might have been helpful to have had a larger print sign that said, 'This is not a swastika, if you want to understand it come to the museum', " she said.

She said after the meeting that Anna Brumley had written and printed the description of the quilt that was displayed with it.

John Gilbert, manager of the museum, said after he heard about the complaints, he offered to move the quilt from where it was displayed — in a window in the mall commons area — to an open display cabinet within the museum, along with a detailed description of the quilt's history and creation in 1927.

"I was told to just take it down, " he said.

Bud Baldwin, chair of the museum board, said the quilt, hung as part of the Christmas in the Museum display put up in December, was taken down due to the complaints.

"Under the circumstances, " it seemed appropriate to remove the quilt, he said.

Gilbert said part of the problem was that people were complaining to people from other businesses, who told Gilbert they couldn't take time from their own business days to explain the museum's displays to the customers.

"The problem with the quilt was not that people were coming in the museum to complain about it. In fact, people didn't come in, " he said.

Museum board member Gary Wilson said he would like to see the quilt put back on display, with a detailed explanation of its history.

He and others at the meeting discussed the historical significance of the broken cross symbol, used from prehistoric times and appearing both in the Old and New worlds, which appears in displays of many cultures in museums around the world.

 

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