Library Event Draws Those Interested in Industrial History and Papermaking

Upwards to 60 people gathered on Saturday December 13, at the Holyoke Public Library on Maple Street, Holyoke, for the gallery talk and opening reception of the Parsons Paper in Historic Perspective, 1853-2008 exhibit. The display, curated by Penni Martorell, features the photographs of internationally recognized, Sandy Noyes who spent five years photographing the Parsons Paper Mill #2 on Sargent Street in Holyoke prior to the company’s closing in February 2004. The display cases are filled with items from the Parson Paper Collection held at the Holyoke Public Library History Room & Archive— including a 1940s nurses log, paper samples books, the original incorporation papers of Parsons Paper No. 2, and a oil portrait of Joseph C. Parson, founder of the company painted by Sante Graziani.

Noyes explained, "This show is more conceptual than it is visual. We are asking you to be guided through the images by the concepts of paper making. We are multimedia. There is text. There are floor plans. There is a mural. There's a movie. We are interactive. Take a look at the mural, which really is our fourth wall. It is bySante Graziano and was done in 1950. Mr. Parsons is to the right ofthe central figure. The plans for the canals that Parsons used are to the left of the central figure. The entire right hand panel is aboutpaper making. The woman is holding up a test sheet. A finishing roomworker is carrying a box of paper. There is a calendar roll at theirfeet. This panel sequences right into the photographs of the Parsonsbuilding to the right of it."

Steve Hale, former national sales manager of Parsons Paper, enhanced the discussion by providing a thorough history of the company, its founder, and how Holyoke became known as “The Paper City.” Kenny Konstantinidis, a third generation papermaker at Parsons also contributed his remembrances about what it was like to work in the mill and the camaraderie of the workforce. A multimedia event, there was also a short video Parsons Paper had produced in 1995 showing the mill in operation. Even the Public Library wall murals contributed to the event with one entire panel devoted to the theme of paper in Holyoke.

Later in the afternoon, Dr. Sid Berger, Director of the Phillips Library of the Peabody Essex Museum and Paper Collector, spoke to a standing room only crowd about the Early Developments in Papermaking, detailing the processes, explaining the machines used, and showing many examples of hand-made and machine-made papers.

The audience was filled with native Holyoke residents, as well as visitors from New York, Connecticut, Vermont and New Hampshire. “It is sad that such a founding institution is gone,” commented Roman Victor, “however this exhibit creates an outstanding archive for future generations interested in the industrial age of American history.”

The exhibit will remain on display in the balcony gallery at the Holyoke Public Library at 322 Maple Street, Holyoke until January 16th. If you have any questions or comments please email or call Penni Martorell, curator and archivist at the Holyoke History Room at 413-552-2842, martorellp@ci.holyoke.ma.us