Making history — that of graphic heritage institutions

The AEPM’s Timeline of printing and related museums has been updated and considerably enriched

Since 2015 the AEPM has been compiling a chronology of museums and other organisations which have actively contributed to the preservation, display and mediation of printing and graphic heritage since the middle of the 19th century. Many of these organisations are still in existence today, sometimes after one or more changes of name or location. Others have disappeared, in which case the Timeline gives the closure date when known (which is not often because closures are harder to track than openings).

Over that last twenty or thirty years several listings of printing and paper museums have been published, containing the addresses, contact details and indications of the principal centres of interest of active museums. But because they were mainly intended to increase the visibility of existing museums no attempt was made to systematically note when they had been established and, needless to say, those which had not survived were completely absent.

The original intention of the AEPM Timeline of printing and related museums — which was begun in 2015 — was to offer a research tool for anyone interested in how the institutions of printing and graphic heritage have developed since the middle of the nineteenth century. As such it initially provided little more than the foundation date and location of each museum. Since then, however, a large amount of additional data has been compiled concerning the origins of the museums and their collections, the reasons that motivated their creation and, in many cases, how they have developed since they were set up. This additional data has now been added to the timeline. Needless to say the story that it tells of the myriad printing and related museums is in no way exhaustive, partly because few printing museums have the time or resources to devote to researching and making public the history of their own institution. And partly, it has to be said, because questions of what printing museums are, why they exist and where they come from have been largely overlooked by historians of printing, books and graphic design up until now.

As it stands, the AEPM’s Timeline of printing and related museums contains 300-odd references and is very much an ongoing project, for it is patchy (to say the least) and in the current state of the historiography of the subject doubtless contains errors. So if you wish the foundation date and a description of the origins and development of an organisation you know of or are involved with to be included in this list, or if you have any information about museums past or present which are not currently included, we would be very happy to hear from you.

For all information, queries, corrections or additions please contact Alan Marshall the editor of the Timeline here.