The National Quilt Museum was established by Bill and Meredith Schroeder of Paducah and opened to the public on April 25, 1991. It is the world's foremost museum devoted to quilts and the only museum dedicated to today's quilts and quiltmakers. The main gallery is devoted to a rotating selection of the museum's permanent collection of over 500 quilts. Its two other galleries exhibit rotating fiber art exhibits throughout the year. Founding Executive Director was Victoria Faoro.
In addition to its commitment to exhibit world class fiber art, the Museum also offers educational opportunities for adults and kids at all skill levels. In 1993 the Museum hosted the first African American Quilters Forum and in 1995 The Museum developed "Gatherings," an exhibit and conference celebrating quilt documentation projects completed across the country.
The Museum was honored in May 2008 when the U.S. Congress designated it The National Quilt Museum of the United States. May Louise Zumwalt, former Executive Director of the Museum, said "Though it does not mean we will receive national funding, it does recognize that we are a quilt museum with national significance." This designation brings additional attention and helps increase the number of visitors. The Museum currently averages 40,000 visitors per year.
In June 2011 writer and consultant Frank W. Bennett became Chief Executive Officer of the Museum.
In October 2011 the National Quilt Museum was honored with a 2011 Kentucky Governor's Award in the Arts.