Tag Archives: papermaking

Fifth Piece of the Puzzle

Select a text that you wish to use in your final project and write a very brief blog post explaining why you chose it and how you might use it.

Selected text: Levine, Mark. “Can a Papermaker Help to Save Civilization? – The New York Times.” New York Times Magazine 17 Feb. 2012. Web. 29 June 2017.

Reasons: This article actually inspired my project topic. I knew that I wanted to focus on book arts, and handmade paper is often a part of this medium. I am personally interested in handmade paper as well and have taken classes on the topic. This article ties the art and craft of papermaking to our cultural history. This history (in both Eastern and Western countries) can easily incorporate teaching opportunities and help students to ask “historian’s questions.” This article serves as a jumping off point to other texts, including lesson plans and papermaking tutorials. It will be part of a larger bibliography to help both teachers and student see how handmade paper fits into history. This article also speaks to the need for authority in information sources. The subject of the interview is Timothy Barrett, a papermaker and former director of the Center for the Book at the University of Iowa. He is an established expert in the field. Although the New York Times Magazine is not a peer-reviewed journal, it is a respected publication and accessible to a wider audience. In addition to these kinds of texts, I will include several images and videos to help explain handmade paper and the process to create it.

Potential Project Idea

I’ve been debating about what to focus on for my class project. I considered focusing on a historical view of Shakespeare performances because of a current project at work in which we are trying to collect data about university productions of Shakespeare plays. However, this would require materials and contributions that we do not have yet.

In considering two of my areas of interest (artists’ books and exhibits), I explored possible topics that would related to discussions of history. I have an interested in papermaking and handmade paper and have even taken a couple of classes. Handmade paper is an important, although not required, aspect of artists’ books. I then came across the article “Can a Papermaker Help to Save Civilization?” in the New York Times. The article focuses on Timothy Barrett, a papermaker and former director of the Center for the Book at the University of Iowa. His interests combine current art production and history studies. His current research focuses on European paper made between the 14th and the 19th centuries, and he has also made several artists’ books using handmade paper. According to the article, Barrett “has dedicated his life to unlocking the mysteries of paper, which he regards as both the elemental stuff of civilization and an endangered species in digital culture.” According to the author Mark Levine, “paper’s long role as the repository of cultural memory and accomplishment is being usurped by swift technological change.” I think this focus will present some interesting challenges since it focuses on the tactile but places it in an online environment.

I found it helpful to examine the core elements of historical thinking listed on both the TeachingHistory.org website and the Historical Thinking Standards from the UCLA Department of History’s National Center of History in Schools.


  1. Multiple Accounts & Perspectives
  2. Analysis of Primary Sources
  3. Sourcing
  4. Context
  5. Claim-evidence Connection

National Center of History in Schools

  1. Chronological Thinking
  2. Historical Comprehension
  3. Historical Analysis and Interpretation
  4. Historical Research Capabilities
  5. Historical Issues-Analysis and Decision-Making

I would like to trace the history of papermaking and highlights its current applications with artists’ books according to these elements of historical thinking. In part, this will require creating empathy (as discussed by Wineberg) for early civilizations that are foreign to us now. I would like to present images and videos of handmade paper and papermaking as primary sources that audiences could examine online. Of course, this automatically presents a conflict since handmade paper is naturally a tactile experience. It will be difficult to convey these unique qualities, such as the feel and scent of handmade paper, in an online environment. One way to meet this challenge will be to include several close-up images of paper and videos of how paper is made. Looking at the entire history of papermaking may prove to be too broad so I may focus specifically on China.  The paper that we are more familiar with today dates back to  China at the beginning of the first millennium so this provides a familiar entry point into a discussion of the topic. I will then look at examples of artists’ books that are incorporating historical Chinese papermaking techniques.