Volunteer Spotlight: Surprising connections between mills, art and politics

January 09th 2019 by Susan Ing

Our volunteer, Susan, writes about the work she's doing at the Archive, and some of the interesting things she's found along the way.
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One of the many fascinating things about the collections library here at the Mills Archive is the amazing range of information from around the world. These records, items and accounts show how the experience of mills and milling is universal but has been adopted, adapted and woven in a unique (but uniting) way by cultures around the world. It's fascinating finding the little surprises that this interlinking of culture often brings along the way.

 

I have had the privilege of looking through and creating English summaries for French (and Spanish) documents from manuals, trade literature to personal accounts and social historical guides. I have learnt a lot; such as the origins and influences of mills across France, French territories and colonies and the impact of mills and milling, including their social impact and advances in technology across villages, towns and cities.

 

I was recently reading through a French brochure on the Richard de Bas paper mill in central France (below), and amongst the renovation plans to turn the mill into a museum and training centre, I made a surprising discovery. One of the mill's last achievements before it closed was making and providing the paper for the original copy of the Fifth French Constitution of 1957 - a hugely important document! As well as this, paper from this mill was sent by the founder of the mill society to Salvador Dali to use for one of the paintings in his series "The Apocalypse of St Jon", 1958. Dali apparently ‘threw pins at the canvas and then painted over it’ in order to create his famous  “Christ” painting (above).