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An American document restorer and former director of the W. J. Barrow Research Laboratory located in Richmond, Virginia, Barrow was at one time considered by many authorities to be the leading independent scientific center for research into paper and the deterioration of paper. Barrow developed a process for laminating brittle documents between tissue and cellulose acetate film, as well as a highly effective means of deacidifying paper. He demonstrated the actual facts of paper stability over the past four centuries and developed a durable paper having a high degree of permanence. Barrow was also a part of a team of paper manufacturers, partially supported by the paper industry, which developed a large-scale process to manufacture alkaline or permanent-durable paper from wood fiber. He was also involved in other investigations connected with paper and ink for a period of more than 30 years, and was probably the most important single contributor to the knowledge of methods of achieving permanence and durability of archival materials. The Barrow laboratory ceased operations in 1977, ten years after his death on August 25, 1967.
Significance to preservation
Before the 1850s, linen and cotton rag were the primary material source for papermaking, but a shortage drove the market to develop the notoriously acidic wood-pulp alternative. With the advent of steam-driven paper making machines such as the Fourdrinier in the 19th century, in conjunction with the advent of the steam driven rotary printing press, wood based paper caused a major transformation of the 19th century economy and society in industrialized countries. The wide availability of cheap wood based paper can be credited with the birth of ephemera, and consequently with the birth of modern paper preservation, as large quantities of rapidly deteriorating materials needed the attention of science.
Barrow published an article in the 1930s that introduced librarians, archivists, and other restorers with chemical means of controlling the acid deterioration of paper. While he is widely considered to be the first promoter of acid paper issues, his earliest published work on this topic goes somewhat unheeded until the 1950s when he began to receive grants from the Council on Library Resources (CLR) and the American Library Association (ALA), among others. The delay in addressing these issues could be largely due to the onset of the Depression, and the following paper-hungry war which pushed the acid paper problem to the back of scientists' minds.
Barrow's greatest significance is perhaps as an aggressive promoter of paper preservation, as in retrospect his scientific discoveries have not been entirely sound. For example, his tests to accelerate the natural aging of paper samples at elevated temperatures have since proven to be erroneous, and modern scholars doubt his importance as an original chemical researcher.
Education and career
Barrow was born December 11, 1904 in Brunswick County, Virginia. He had little formal education when he began to study paper chemistry, learning instead through apprenticeship with professional paper chemists from the National Bureau of Standards and the National Printing Office.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "William_Barrow". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|