MacArthur Fellows Program

Timothy Barrett

Papermaker | Class of 2009

Reinvigorating the art of hand-papermaking and leading the preservation of traditional Western and Japanese techniques and practices.

Center for the Book, University of Iowa
Iowa City, Iowa
59 at time of award
Published January 26, 2009

About Timothy's Work

Timothy Barrett is an internationally recognized master craftsman and paper historian who is preserving and enhancing the art of hand-papermaking through his work as a practitioner, scholar, and teacher. Combining the skills of artist, ethnographer, scientist, and historian, he documents and demonstrates centuries-old hand-papermaking practices that may otherwise be lost. As the founding director of the papermaking facilities at the University of Iowa Center for the Book — the only academic program in the United States that focuses on producing traditional Western- and Japanese-style papers and teaching-related techniques — he has trained a generation of papermakers to create conservation-sound paper. His Japanese Papermaking: Traditions, Tools, and Techniques (1983) draws on research he conducted in Japan on the history of paper as well as his experience as a papermaking practitioner; this groundbreaking volume compiles (for Western audiences) essential knowledge about the unique qualities of handmade Japanese paper, which is a fundamental repair material for all conservators. Synthesizing his deep understanding of various papermaking traditions of the east and west and innovative, modern techniques, Barrett has developed a variety of specialty and production papers to address the needs of book and paper conservators. Among his many conservation projects, he and his co-workers fabricated the handmade archival paper used to re-house the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the Constitution as part of the “Charters of Freedom Re-encasement Project” in 2002. Deeply committed to the preservation and future of his art form, Barrett continues to enrich the fields of hand-papermaking, paper conservation, and the history of paper.


Timothy Barrett received a B.A. (1973) from Antioch College and undertook training in papermaking at Twinrocker Handmade Paper (1973-1975), the Saitama Prefecture Paper Industry Research Station in Japan (1975-1977), and Western Michigan University (1982-1985). He served as director of the University of Iowa Center for the Book from 1996 to 2002, where he is currently a research scientist and adjunct professor.

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