Belgium’s national paper museum is at Malmedy, the German-speaking city of 11,000 inhabitants near the country’s eastern border. It is one of several organisations that, under the name Malmundarium, occupy an early eighteenth century mansion that was part of a Benedictine monastery founded in 648. The building was put to various uses after religious houses were dissolved at the time of the French Revolution, but was acquired by the municipality for cultural purposes in 1985.
The first paper mill in the region was established on the bank of the River Warchenne in 1726, and the industry was developed in the nineteenth century by the Steinbach family. In 1848 a mill in Malmedy produced the first photographic paper to be marketed in Europe. A new mill, the Papeterie du Pont de Warche, was established in 1909 to manufacture high-grade stationery. The industry has since declined but one mill remains in production, although in foreign ownership.
The museum tells the story of papermaking through the centuries, with particular emphasis on what is now the Belgian part of the Eifel region. One of its principal exhibits is a replica of one of the first papermaking machines of the kind invented by Nicolas Louis Robert (1761-1820) in 1798, but there are also displays of equipment used for making paper by hand. Workshops are held which enable visitors to make paper for themselves. Other parts of Malmundarium explain the history of the abbey buildings and other trades that once flourished in the town.