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Robert C. Williams Paper Museum
Georgia Institute of Technology
500 10th Street Northwest
Atlanta, Georgia 30332-0620
Voice: 404-894-7840

The Robert C. Williams Paper Museum is an internationally renowned resource on the history of paper and paper technology. In addition to more than 2,000 books, the Museum features a remarkable collection of over 10,000 watermarks, papers, tools, machines, and manuscripts.

"From Hand to Machine: The Evolution of Papermaking", is the opening presentation in the new George W. Mead Paper Education Center. The exhibit details the evolution of science and technology in papermaking, showcasing artifacts from the 1300s to paper made in space aboard the space shuttle Columbia.

In 1690 the Rittenhouse family arrived in Colonial America. They brought with them from Europe a mould and a deckle, the tool to form a sheet of paper, and the knowledge of papermaking. At their new mill site they built all their larger tools, including the stampers, vat, press, and drying racks. The mill site they chose was located near a village where cloth scraps from weavers were available for fiber, and running water in the creek was free from mineral deposits which would discolor the paper. The short haul to market was made by horse and wagon. The local printer, anxious to have a reliable source of paper, was ready to purchase all the mill could produce.

Today paper mills still locate near sources of water which are free from mineral deposits. They use a variety of fibers for papermaking, but by far the most popular are recycled paper and wood. The tools have become complex high-tech machinery, but they still perform the same steps carried out by the early papermakers. Railroad cars, container ships, and freight trucks now transport the paper to market, which is now both national and international. Despite predictions of a paperless society, today's average American consumes more that 675 pounds of paper per year.

AD 105 is often cited as the year in which papermaking was invented. In that year, historical records show that the invention of paper was reported to the Chinese Emperor by Ts'ai Lun, an official of the Imperial Court. Recent archaeological investigations, however, place the actual invention of papermaking some 200 years earlier. Ancient paper pieces from the Xuanquanzhi ruins of Dunhuang in China's northwest Gansu province apparently were made during the period of Emperor Wu who reigned between 140 BC and 86 BC. Whether or not Ts'ai Lun was the actual inventor of paper, he deserves the place of honor he has been given in Chinese history for his role in developing a material that revolutionized his country.

   


Pictures and information were provided by Robert C. Williams Paper Museum

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