open letter


To the members and board of the IPH

Dear friends and colleagues,

Our IPH offers a fantastic opportunity for the exchange of knowledge and experience in the field of paper history, and it has developed into an association that unites scientists, historians, artists and all other kinds of 'lovers' of paper. This broad scope necessitates a good balance between scientific and social activities, particularly during our biennial gatherings: the 'menu' should include not only heavy stews, but also light hors d'oeuvres, spicy soups and joyful deserts, and time enough to chat and mingle in between the courses. IPH has always made many efforts in reaching this goal, and a lot has been accomplished. We can also be proud of our Bulletins, Yearbooks and Website. And it must be clearly acknowledged that most of the work depends on the voluntary contributions of individuals.

For a successful future of our association we will have to keep up the good traditions, but also construct new strategies. For instance in order to establish a more fruitful co-operation with other organisations active in overlapping fields of interest, such as paper conservation and book history. The direction in which our IPH will have to develop on short- and long-term should be every member's concern. A prerequisite for this desired general involvement is an open, communicative attitude, and a transparent character of the organisation itself. In particular, the general meetings, organised every two years as part of the IPH Conference, should allow an open-minded and meaningful exchange of ideas between the board and the members.

Against this background, and on the basis of some complications during the last conference in Dortmund, several participants felt the need to put forward some suggestions. The following practical recommendations are primarily intended as a positive contribution to improve the interchange between IPH board and members in their general meetings, and between the speakers and the audience in the presentations of the conference papers.

The subscribers, listed underneath in alphabetical order, hope that these recommendations may be a starting-point of a meaningful and broad discussion, not only with regard to practical aspects, but also about the future policy of our IPH in its attempts to stand up to all existing and new challenges, and to keep our association safe and sound, and alive and well. As we can decide on these issues only at our next general meeting in Rome (2002), the discussion should take place in the meantime, and should also be recorded in one way or the other, possibly by means of a discussionlist installed in the IPH website. For the time being, and until a more suitable alternative has been established, a provisional contact address for comments and suggestions is offered.


General meeting

  1. the agenda of the general meeting should be as detailed as possible, especially proposals of the board laid to the members for approval;
  2. the agenda of the general meeting should be distributed at least one month ahead of time including all the necessary documents;
  3. the chairman of the meeting does not need to be the president of IPH, but preferably a volunteer approved by the assembly at the opening of the meeting;
  4. in order to prevent any exclusion from the discussion for linguistic reasons, different persons should be appointed at the beginning of the meeting as translators between the official IPH languages. They must be allowed to present any item of formal information not written down beforehand, especially with regard to issues submitted to vote, and to give summaries of discussions on each point, even during open debate, and to answer any member's questions about a misunderstood point;
  5. the minutes of all general meetings should be recorded by an appointed secretary, should be made available to all IPH members, and should be kept at least until the date that the minutes have been arrested at the following general meeting. The use of audio tapes might be considered;
  6. the general meeting should leave ample time, at least one hour, for open discussion on topics proposed by the general membership.

IPH Congress

a. the lectures should only be given in one of the official IPH languages. As this obligation should not exclude any potential speaker, the organisers of the congress should mediate in the translation of the papers in question, and if necessary, ask another member to read the paper aloud, and offer help for translation in the discussion if needed;

b. all lectures should be accompanied with extended oral and/or written summaries in the other languages;

c. after the lectures there should be ample time for discussion, either right after each presentation or at the end of the respective session;

d. the program should be set-up in such a way as to leave extra time for unforeseen situations;

e. one part of the program should be organised around a current central theme or topic, followed by an extended panel discussion;

f. this central theme or topic of the program should be properly introduced;

g. there should be enough time for short presentations about current research;

h. besides lectures, other forms of communication should be considered, such as (parallel) small group workshops, short (computer) demonstrations and posters.


Claire Bustarret
Jos De Gelas
Corinna Herrmann
Gisela Mandl
Françoise Paireau
Henk Porck
Frieder Schmidt
Sydney Shep
René Teygeler

Contact address: H.J. Porck, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, P.O. Box 90407, NL-2509 LK The Hague, The Netherlands

fax nr. +31703140655, e-mail


Dear friends and colleagues,

The concern and commitment expressed in the above open letter of a group of members and friends of IPH deserves our serious attention. I personally greatly appreciate this initiative to bring to discussion the way in which our organisation operates and how procedures, especially regarding the way in which congresses are prepared and conducted, may be improved.

I fully agree that more people should be actively involved in operating our organisation and determining its goals and strategy. In my experience, since my election two years ago, too much is expected from too few people at this moment. The enormous amount of time and energy voluntarily invested in IPH by a very small group of devoted members not only deserves more appreciation, but should ideally be divided among more members willing to contribute to the good cause. When I had to conduct the Congress in Dortmund last September I had, much to my distress, to act largely on my own, like my predecessor Dr. Peter Tschudin had to in Porto in 1998. Both times the secretary/treasurer was unable to attend the congress - for perfectly sound reasons by the way - and again this has proven to be a most unpractical, unsatisfactory and undesirable situation. I am therefore most pleased by this initiative of a small but potential group of distinguished members, all from the 'younger generation' and holding key positions in the field, willing to join in the effort. During the last congress some of these members have already enthousiastically taken up the concerns expressed in my biennial report, published in issue 1/2000 of our periodical Paper History, and succeeded in convincing the participants in the extraordinary general meeting that a renewed attempt should be made to actively involve members by forming several thematical working groups (see the information elsewehere in this issue). After this repeated sign of concern and commitment I feel confident that these initiatives will lead to the desired improvement of our organisation, especially the congresses, and a more active participation of members in the activities of IPH. The more so, because this open letter is also signed by two members of the council of IPH, including the Vice-President Dr. Frieder Schmidt. In order to let the discussion start rightaway, I will create a special page for this purpose on our website: click here. I suggest that by next summer the first results from this discussion will be discussed in the council and I hope we will be able to put the first improvements to the test in Rome in 2002 and place the final decision in the hands of the next general meeting.

In conclusion, I would like to make the following suggestion: as the entire council of IPH will come up for election in September 2002, this occasion offers the ideal opportunity to ponder over a fresh team of committed members that might take up the management of IPH for the next term of four years and decide on the specific tasks each of them should be entrusted with. Let candidates for president, vice-president, treasurer, secretary and council member come forward well in advance, preferably as teams of running mates, and present their programs.

I hope we'll have a fruitfull discussion!


Dr. Albert J. Elen

President of IPH

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