Windham Textile Museum teaches kids about historic paper and bookmaking

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Willimantic - posted Tue., Apr. 23, 2013
Siblings Tony and Isabella make paper at a workshop at the Windham Textile and History Museum on April 13. Photo by Melanie Savage.
Siblings Tony and Isabella make paper at a workshop at the Windham Textile and History Museum on April 13. Photo by Melanie Savage.

“Looks like dirty oatmeal,” observed one little girl, eyeing suspiciously a concoction of shredded newspaper and water that was spinning away inside a blender on the third floor of the Windham Textile and History Museum on the afternoon of April 13. The children were making recycled paper out of old issues of newspaper.

In the old days, people would use paper, wood chips, even old rags, explained museum educator Bev York. “And they’d chop it all up, mix it up, and make paper out of it,” she said. Bleach would be used to make the paper white. But the children didn’t bother with bleach. They poured their mushy, grey mash onto a fine screen mounted on a wooden frame, pushed the water out of it, then turned it onto paper plates to dry. Historically, paper makers would fashion each individual sheet, “and then they’d have to hang each and every piece of paper up to dry,” said York.

That was before a British man named Henry Fourdrinier invented, with his brother Sealy in the early 19th century, a machine capable of making continuous rolls of paper. The machine was adopted in, among other places, the Smith and Winchester Factory in South Windham. “It revolutionized the way the world made paper,” said York.

The Windham Textile and History Museum is holding a tag sale on May 4 and 5, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Dugan Mill at 153 Union St. (second floor). Donations will be accepted April 26 and 27 at the museum at 411 Main St. The museum has issued a flier requesting "please, no electronics, fitness equipment or clothing."

For more information about upcoming museum events, go to http://www.millmuseum.org/.


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