A Paper World: The Collection and Investigation of Plant Materials for Paper Making, c.1830-1914
Royal Holloway, University of London
Year of enrolment: 2017
National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) Studentship
Supervisor: Professor Felix Driver
Innovations in the technology of print and the vast expansion of publishing during the nineteenth century stimulated the global search for new sources of paper. A wide variety of natural sources for paper-making were experimented with prior to the large-scale mechanisation of papermaking using wood pulp from the 1880s. While the economics of papermaking attracted the attention of industrialists and botanists, there was also a longstanding ethnographic interest in techniques of indigenous papermaking, stimulated by the accounts of overseas travellers and explorers. This combination of economic and ethnographic interest inspired the assembling of collections of different types of paper, analogous to collections of indigenous textiles in the period. Focussing on the unrivalled collection of plant materials and manufactured papers from many parts of the world held in the Economic Botany Collection at Kew, the studentship provides an opportunity to explore the economic, cultural and technical significance of the search for alternative sources of material for paper making during the Victorian era. The PhD thesis is likely to take the form of a series of well-chosen case studies, raising wider questions concerning the formation of knowledge about raw materials, technologies and commodities. In addition to work with the Economic Botany Collection at Kew, the project will involve archival research in official, business and private papers at Kew and elsewhere in the UK. There will also be opportunities within the public programmes of RBG Kew to present this research to wider audiences. The project forms part of an ongoing research collaboration between Royal Holloway and Kew Gardens, including a large AHRC project led by the co-supervisors ('The Mobile Museum: Economic Botany in Circulation').