The Paper Museum Basel
12 March 2019
The St. Alban quarter in Basel is the location of the production of paper until 1924. The Paper Museum (Museum für Papier, Geschrift und Druck, die Papiermühle) is housed in a four-story medieval building.
The building is considered to be one of the most important historical industrial buildings in Switzerland. The oldest preserved parts are from the beginning of the 13th century and stood 15 meters from the river Birs.
After the devastating earthquake in 1356 and the extension of the city wall, the building was extended in the direction of the Rhine. The Gallizan Mill is the largest mill. Anton Gallizian changed the mill into a paper mill in 1453 and the history of the Paper Museum begins.
Paper production became an essential industry in the time of the Council of Basel (1431-1449). The first grain mill was converted into a paper mill in 1433. The real large-scale production started in 1453 by Anton Gallizan in the museum building. Gallizan continuously expanded its activities by purchasing more and more mills.
In the late Middle Ages, almost all mills were converted into paper mills, and the St. Alban district became the most important centre for paper production in Switzerland and enjoyed a great reputation in Europe.
The University of Basel was founded in 1460 and Basel became a city of publishers, humanists and book producers. The production of paper remained unchanged for centuries, but the industrialisation and new inventions of the nineteenth century led to the closure of the last paper mills in 1924. The museum opened its doors in 1980.
The museum positions itself as one of the few paper museums that show thousands of years of writing and paper and the original paper- and book production, printing, bookbinding, and typography. Paper, books, and other paper products are still produced by old machines. The museum also illustrates the old crafts, which have almost disappeared today.
The museum is also a revelation to new generations and their modern media. Most of them may never have seen a typewriter or have no idea about making paper or printing books.
The museum is a monument and not only shows local and European history but offers a balanced collection and variety between information, experience, activities for young and old and authentic workshops with their sounds, smells, and old materials. (Source and further information: M. Kluge, Die Basler Papiermühle, Basel 2014; www.papiermuseum.ch).