Mystic Seaport Museum Exhibit

"The Mystic Seaport Museum" in Mystic, Connecticut is having an exhibit on the famous Vinland Maps. Like most Medieval and Renaissance maps, the Vinland Maps were made on parchment. The exhibit designer requested a custom made parchment for display from Jesse Meyer at Pergamena. I was asked to write the text prepared by the museum staff.

The purpose of this exhibit object is to speak to a common misconception about parchment. Parchment is not a type of paper. Although it may seem redundant to explain in writing that parchment is made from real animal skin on a parchment stretched on a parchmenter's stretching frame, perhaps it simply gets the point across both visually and verbally. And a full goat skin is visually stunning.

The average person on the 21st Century has never seen parchment. The term "parchment paper" easily rolls off the tongue of the majority of 21st Century's citizens, although to me, "parchment paper" has the sound of fingernails on the chalk board. Parchment is animal skin specially prepared for writing while paper is felted cellulose fiber. To become parchment, the skin must be stretched tightly in order to align the layers of skin fibers which gives parchment it's unique strength- like plywood. (Unstretched parchment is a form of rawhide.)

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