From Fibrespace to Cyberspace

Speech by Dr. Albert J. Elen, President of IPH,

during the celebration of the 40th anniversary of IPH

on Sunday 19 September 1999 in Berlin


Dear friends and colleagues,

This Sunday morning September 19th we celebrate the 40th birthday of our association. Thanks to the hospitality of the Deutscher Arbeitskreis für Papiergeschichte (DAP), the Fachausschuss Papiergeschichte of the Zellcheming Association and the Deutsches Museum für Technik we are able to gather here in Berlin on the very day IPH was founded 40 years ago. For practical reasons a majority of our members preferred Berlin to Bamberg where IPH was actually founded. Thanks are due to the organizer of the 10th DAP conference, Dr. Rolf Stümpel, who managed to include this hour of celebration into the already rich program of this four-days meeting.

A warm welcome to all of you on this solemn occasion. It is indeed a great pleasure to have with us today our first and honorary president Henk Voorn, third president Dr. Richard Hills and fourth president Dr. Peter Tschudin. Our second and honorary president Dr. Hans Kälin is unfortunately unable to attend our meeting but sends you his best regards.

May I give a special welcome to Mr. Ralf Weidenmüller, Managing Director of the Zellcheming Association, which supported for a long period the famous "Forschungsstelle Papiergeschichte" in Mayence and the secretary of IPH, and to the chairman of its paper historical sub-committee, the "Fachausschuss für Papiergeschichte und Wasserzeichenkunde", Mr. Elgar Drewsen, as well as to Professor Guido Dessauer, distinguished specialist in the field of paper technology and paper history, also a supporter from the beginning, and to Alfred Renker, son of the the late Armin Renker, famous co-founder of IPH.

I would like to introduce three speakers. First Dr. Wolfgang Schlieder, one of the two surviving founders of IPH - as you know Henk Voorn is the other - who will give you an account of the early history of IPH. After him Mrs. Bozena Makowska, director of the Paper Museum and historic Paper Mill in Duszniki Zdrój in Poland, will inform you of the progress made in the restoration of the mill and museum, which were severely damaged during the flood in July 1998. The third speaker is Ursula Jennemann-Henke who will describe the program of the next IPH congress in Dortmund in 2000. I myself will close this celebration hour with some reflections on the present state of our 'profession' and the future of IPH.

[Speeches of Dr.W. Schlieder, mrs. B. Makowska MA, mrs U. Jennemann-Henke MA]

Overlooking our field of mutual interest we can say that paper history is flourishing. The 10th DAP meeting here in Berlin, the 10th anniversary conference of the British Association of Paper Historians last week in Bath - congratulations to chairman Phil Crockett cum suis - and the forthcoming 25th IPH congress in Dortmund, they all bear witness to this fact.

The success of the activities of the national organisations of paper historians, especially those in England and Germany, is remarkable. The British Association of Paper Historians (BAPH) has many members, they have their own website, a newsletter and a magnificent Quarterly, which seems to attract more articles than our IPH magazine, which is in continuous need of contributions. Unfortunately, IPH has relatively few British members left and perhaps this is a reason why so few English papers are offered to our editor. Perhaps we should consider offering members of national organisations the possibility of a dual membership in order to keep in touch with these colleagues and to stimulate their involvement in the activities of IPH.

In Germany the situation is slightly different, IPH having been founded there and more than half of its members being German. Taking over the duty of a national association, the Deutscher Arbeitskreis für Papiergeschichte is a very active working group with annual conferences. The Fachausschuss Papiergeschichte und Wasserzeichenkunde, co-organiser of the present conference, is an equally active committee which has from the very beginning played a supportive role in IPH.

There are other national organisations of paper historians in Europe, the Swiss and the Scandinavian, of whom the first have traditionally contributed most to the IPH, both in members and in presidents. Consider that the Schweizer Papier-Historiker (SPH) have 160 members, more than half the number of the IPH membership. They have their own bulletin SPH Kontakte which is edited - and written for the most part - with much dedication by Heiner Schmidt-Westmann, who is also among us today. The Scandinavian paper historians are organized in the Föreningen Nordiska Pappershistoriker (NPH) who publish their own bulletin NPH Nytt, and are represented in this assembly by Dr. Gunnar Christie Wasberg, from Oslo.

When I continue my tour of the European paper historical landscape I arrive at the Low Countries. Here the interest for paper history is at a relatively low level nowadays. The Belgian association of paper historians was unfortunately dissolved last year. In the Netherlands paper history in the strict sense is more or less a hobby of some and is no longer practised on a professional level since our honorary president Henk Voorn retired as curator of the paperhistorical collection of the Dutch Royal Library in 1986, after having finished his magnum opus. In Holland the attention of the few people working in this field focuses on decorated papers, watermarks and paper conservation. Next month the Netherlands Association of paper and book restorers (VAR) will hold their annual congress in Rotterdam, where several speakers - more than half of them IPH members - will give lectures on the subject "Paper: identification, interpretation, description". There is not yet an organized working group of paper historians but an initiative to that effect has recently been taken by Dr. Henk Porck of the Dutch Royal Library.

In the other European countries which have played an important role in the history of papermaking, Italy and France, IPH has only a few members and there are no national associations or important working groups besides the Pia Università dei Cartai in Fabriano. Occasionally though, conferences are held on paper historical subjects, like "Papier au Moyen-Âge" (paper in the middle ages) organized by the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in the prestigious Institut de France in Paris in April 1998, where several members of IPH, including myself, Dr. Peter Tschudin, Dr. Richard Hills and our honorary member and former vice-president Prof.Dr. Jean Irigoin were among the speakers. However, contributions to our periodical and congresses are few, especially from Italy, which is after all the cradle of papermaking in Europe.

In Spain paper history has been organized on a national level, thanks to the efforts of our member Mrs. Maria del Carmen Hidalgo Brinquis. We have already been invited to hold our IPH congress in 2006 in Spain. The interest in paper history in Portugal is growing since our last congress in Porto. I think it is imperative to further stimulate paper historical interest and cooperation in the mediterranean countries and across the Atlantic, especially the America's and Asia. The future congresses in Italy 2002 and Spain 2006 will hopefully contribute to this goal.

As regards the Eastern European countries, Poland has traditionally had active members within our organisation but no national working group. The Paper Museum in Duszniki Zdrój has resurrected from the disastrous flood last year which prevented our next congress being organized there. It seems we may be invited to come to Poland in 2004 or 2008. An IPH congress there will hopefully also attract representatives from neighbouring countries where paper history has been practised by individual researchers or single institutions only. IPH can give the necessary incentives, as we hope to do in Far East. We wish to tighten contacts with researchers in the field of paper history in China and in Japan, too.

In the forthcoming years IPH will continue to invest in stimulating scientific research and publications. The last volume published last year in the IPH monograph series was Paper comes to the North. Sources and trade routes of paper in the Baltic Sea region 1350-1700. Four months ago it served as the PH.D. thesis of its author, our Finnish member Dr. Nils Lindberg, whom we congratulate on this accomplishment. For the record, Dr. Peter Tschudin was his opponent at the doctoral ceremony. In the next decade IPH will also continue to support the latter's Basel Watermark Editing Project.

Now I come to speak of the most important tool in stimulating the interest in paper history world-wide. That is our website on the Internet. It is an international trend that information and communication are effected primarily through the Internet: it is fast, it is easy and it is accessible to everyone at all places. From fibrespace to cyberspace would be an appropriate motto for IPH in the next century and millennium. By way of this crucial medium we will be able to involve many more people in a more active way in paper history and in the activities of our association. The IPH website is dynamic and is high ranking on the hitlists of the main search engines, meaning that it already serves as the major stepping stone to anyone interested in the manufacture and the application of paper in the past and today.

The introduction of the IPH website in the beginning of this year, with the appealing domain name, has already yielded interesting results:

  • more than 10.000 visitors from more than 50 different countries in the month September alone. The statistics show an increase in the number of visitors every month.
  • 21 new members from 13 different countries, including India, Australia, Czechia, New Zealand, Nepal and Russia;
  • an increase in the sale of IPH publications through the IPH-Editions page;

Among many other items the IPH-website provides:

  • a news page, which is regularly updated with interesting items. Old items are transposed to a special archival page;
  • an agenda page with information on conferences, seminars, expeditions, exhibitions and other paper-related activities. Here too, old items are being archived regularly;
  • a separate page listing paperhistorical collections alphabetically by country, each with summary information, an illustration, as well as e-mail and internet hyperlinks;
  • the IPH Watermark Registration Standard, which can thus can be consulted online;
  • a Questions & Answers page;
  • information on the history of the organisation, the council, congresses, publications and membership.

Through this website IPH is able to reach many more people than would be possible by way of our periodical, which is available to the public in a limited number of libraries and is generally known to members only. Our website will play an increasingly important role in the future. Of course I realize that many members do not yet have access to the internet, but their number will increasingly diminish over the years to come as many will eventually decide to acquire a personal computer and go online. However, for the time being the website will not substitute our periodical, which as from the next issue (2000/1) will have the same name as our internet domain: Paper History.

I look forward to your continued involvement in our association in the next century and millennium. I am convinced that in 10 years from now we will be able to celebrate IPH's 50th anniversary looking back with satisfaction on a most succesfull fifth decade.

Congratulations to you all.