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A European printing heritage network

The aim of the Association of European Printing Museums (AEPM) is to bring together organisations and individuals interested in printing heritage in order to share knowledge, experience, approaches, and resources in all fields of the graphic arts as they have been practised from the time of Gutenberg until the present day.

Membership is open to print-related museums, heritage workshops and collectors actively involved in preserving the heritage of the printing industry.

All over Europe there are a large number of printing and paper museums, print workshops, private collections, and graphic arts sections within technical museums which conserve the machines, techniques and skills of the past: from typesetting, wood and copperplate engraving, photomechanical processes, through the various processes of putting ink onto paper, to finishing and bookbinding.

Similarly, the actors involved in preserving and transmitting the machines, techniques and skills of the past are equally varied: practising and former printers, collectors, museum professionals, archivists, historians, typographers and graphic designers, artists and printmakers… and the list is far from exhaustive.

Though museums, workshops and collectors each have their own approach to this effort, they all share a common goal: the preservation, transmission and interpretation of the many ways in which printing and the graphic arts have contributed to the dissemination of information and knowledge and the progress of society.

Origins of the AEPM

The Association of European Printing Museums (AEPM) was founded in Grevenmacher (Luxembourg) in February 2003 with the aim of encouraging co-operation among European printing museums and promoting printing heritage as an important part of European cultural heritage.

It was originally an informal group formed around a project entitled “Preservation of historical printing skills”, whose purpose was to bring together museum specialists with a view to preserving traditional printing skills and techniques. Although many European printing museums and workshops already had the necessary knowledge and skills to do this, it was felt that there was a clear demand for specially trained museum staff which would increase considerably in the future as what were once widespread industrial processes receded into the past.

It rapidly became apparent however that printing and related museums do not operate in a vacuum. They naturally cooperate, on an almost daily basis, with the many collectors and heritage workshops who play an essential rôle in preserving both the machines and the skills of printing as it has been practised over the centuries, whether in a craft, industrial, or post-industrial environment.

In September 2012, the AEPM decided to open its membership to workshops and collectors active in the field of printing heritage.

In February 2014, the AEPM was formally constituted as a not for profit association registered in Brussels under Belgian law.

Aims of the AEPM

As a broad network of museums, heritage workshops and collectors, the activities of the AEPM are focused on:

  • the exchange of information, experience, and knowledge of the machines and skills which were once common in the printing trade but which have been superceded by modern industrial processes,
  • the training of specialists in traditional printing methods with a view to actively preserving them and transmitting them to future generations,
  • the development of new techniques of presentation and mediation of printing heritage with a view to creating a better understanding the links between communication technologies of the past and present.