Robert C. Williams Museum of Papermaking

By Jill Sweetapple, SGA Blog Contributor

Kyo uchiwa fan, Robert C. Williams Museum of Papermaking

As archivists, many of us work with paper every day. But how about a museum and archive devoted to paper? The Robert C. Williams Museum of Papermaking, on the campus of Georgia Tech, is exactly that. Virginia Howell is the museum’s director, which holds about 100,000 artifacts and 10,000 books. Not all pieces are catalogued; it is an ongoing project, and the collection breaks down into three large categories:
– artifacts, which make up the bulk of the collection, and primarily paper or paper making tools and materials
– the Dard Hunter Library, which contains books about papermaking, Hunter’s works, and related topics such as typefaces and papermaking machinery
– the museum archive, the smallest part of the collection, primarily supporting documents provided by Museum founder Dard Hunter, relevant information from the Institute of Paper Chemistry, and a slide collection of paper artists.

Howell says that one of the biggest challenges is a philosophical question: when is an item an artifact, and when is it archival material?

“A great example of this is the paper sample books in the collection. Over time they have been housed as books in the book room (but they have no text) or as artifacts (but they are more useful due to their content than as an object). When we had only a few identified sample books, it made sense to treat them as artifacts. But when we discovered that there were many, many more sample books than initially thought, we decided to change approach and treat them more like books. But further discussions about possible use and storage needs have resulted in us treating them as a hybrid: they are stored in a single location in the main collections storage, but the descriptions and information about the work is treated more like we catalogue items in the book room.”

Howell and the museum are working on making the collection more accessible in virtual formats. That includes gallery talks and panels, hands-on workshops and virtual exhibits. Additionally, they hope to be able to get more of collections online.

“The pieces in the archive are primarily letters and ephemera, with the exception of the slide collection. Because the collection is so small, we typically include it, catalogue-wise, with the artifacts in the collection. Items have been organized, but many were not entered into Past Perfect, so we are slowly entering into the database and scanning/photographing as we go along.”

You can sign up for an informational email that highlights the workshops they create for all ages, plus my favorite feature, Artifact of the Month. Howell says artifact of the month is a student-run project. April’s feature on a Japanese Kyo uchiwa fan, a fan which does not open, was written by Kayla McManus-Viana:

“Japanese Kyo uchiwa fans are thought to have been developed after similar Korean fans, which were brought to Japan by wakou (pirates) active along the coasts of China and Korea during the 14th century, influenced the designs of the fans used by the Japanese imperial household. However, it was not on the coast but in Kyoto where the design of these Japanese fans was perfected and from where they got their name (“kyo”).”

Classes vary from virtual silk screen printmaking (April 28) to making paper beads. In May, you can make a tunnel book or a stomp rocket. What are those? Visit the Workshops page to find out. Programs are free or low cost. Do not forget their You Tube channel, where you can check out the Paper Animation Fast Film Festival!

You Tube Channel: Robert C. Williams Museum of Papermaking

Robert C. Williams Museum of Papermaking, Georgia Tech
https://paper.gatech.edu/

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