Atlanta’s World of Coca-Cola offers a 4-D theater, contains a vault with Coke’s secret formula, and visitors can taste more than 100 products. That’s all fine and good, but Ruth and I are always looking for unheralded attractions. That’s why we focused on the Center for Puppetry Arts the last time we were there. This time we found and explored the Robert C. Williams Museum of Papermaking, which maybe should have been name after Dard Hunter, who is pictured below.
Part of the Georgia Institute of Technology, the Robert C. Williams Museum of Papermaking is in the Renewable Bioproducts Institute building at 500 10th Street near downtown. It’s free, and I went inside to get a guest paper to put on my dashboard so I could park free too. If you park on the same lot without it, you risk being towed. Anna, the new Education Co-ordinator, showed Ruth and me around this 4 part facility.
Part one was the Robert C. Williams museum. Williams is a graduate of the Institute of Paper Chemistry and a career papermaker. However, it would not be here if it weren’t for historian Dard Hunter. Hunter became fascinated by European paper making in London and devoted the rest of his life to collecting and writing books about paper, owning paper mills, and traveling around the world amassing artifacts related to paper making. His books are in an on-site library and his artifacts are seen in the museum where I learned a lot about paper.
Papyrus was, of course, one of the 1st writing materials, but the Egyptians also used papyrus in making boats, wrapping food, and more. Tapa is beaten bark paper used by Pacific islanders to make regular clothing, ceremonial costumes, and more. The Japanese created handmade paper from plant fibers initially to keep official records and documents. It took 500 years for paper making to arrive in Europe because it came via Muslim culture and was, at first, rejected by the Christian world. It took the invention of the printing press in the 15th century to change attitudes even though the Italians had a mill by 1270 that supplied the rest of Europe with paper. Block printing began in China 200 years before Jesus Christ was born, but the clever Chinese didn’t just use paper for writing surfaces. They also made lanterns, umbrellas, fans, and money from paper. Any plant fiber, even straw, can be used to make paper. Perhaps that’s why so many cultures, even Tibetans, learned to make it.
Part 3 of this facility was temporary exhibits showing what current artists are doing with paper. Venezuelan artist Lucha Rodríguez’s “Bursting” (seen just above) was on display when we were there. Lucha has a fine arts degree in printmaking from a Georgia college, and is a serious paper artist. While viewing it, I was reminded of the paper quilts Ruth & I saw in Golden, CO earlier this year.
The 4th part was the George W. Mead Paper Education Center. Ruth spent most of her time here because it was so child-centered and eager to educate about paper. If you think that its fading in use in the cell phone age, just think about cardboard makers trying to keep up with the demands of cultures ordering so much on the internet. There are special workshops here designed for families, and 3 films could be viewed. When I came in, Ruth was watching one about recycling narrated by a young student. From it I learned that recycled printed paper has to be de-inked.