Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Elephant poop paper and other discoveries at a Wisconsin museum April 18, 2012

ELEPHANT DUNG PAPER: The elephant’s high-fibrous diet makes for excellent paper!

If I had not read the above words at The Paper Discovery Center in Appleton, Wisconsin, I would have thought this to be a bunch of crap.

But would the creators of a paper discovery center spread untruths? I think not. After my recent visit to this museum, I followed up with online research. That led me to elephantdungpaper.com and more information about the elephant poop paper making process. Click here for details.

The Paper Discovery Center in Appleton, Wisconsin, with an attached coffee shop on the right, located along the banks of the Fox River. These brick buildings are stunning.

There’s no elephant dung paper making happening in the 1878 former Atlas Mill along the banks of the raging Fox River in Appleton. But visit this hands-on discovery center and you can make paper by recycling newspapers and other paper into “new” paper.

Two volunteers from the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints staffed the paper making station on a recent Saturday afternoon. Visitors can make new paper here from recycled paper.

And if you have more than an hour of time—which is all my family had—you can learn lots about paper via child-friendly interactive displays. Kids would totally love this place.

A motion-activated sensor above the model's head triggers a sneeze.

I was amused by the motion-activated sneeze that sounded in the health and hygiene kiosk next to an oversized hand clutching a tissue.

Reading an informational display about diapers, I was not amused to learn that pioneers sometimes changed their babies’ diapers only once a day and did not always wash diapers between uses.

My 26-year-old daughter was a bit startled to learn that, before toilet paper, corn cobs were used in outhouses. She even suggested that I seat myself in the mini outhouse for a photo opp. I declined, assuring her I’d spent enough time in an outhouse having lived the first dozen years of my life in a farmhouse without a bathroom.

In the “From Tree to Tissue” exhibit, visitors can follow the process of producing tissue paper, no corn cobs involved. You’ll find plenty to entertain and enlighten you at this former mill operated by Kimberly-Clark Corporation until 2000, according to the museum attendee.

Sit down at a table, choose a color crayon, a mold and a piece of paper and create a leaf rubbing.

Authentic wood type is on display at a station where visitors can solve a crossword puzzle.

Assume the role of someone in the papermaking industry at this interactive exhibit.

Learn how watermarks, like this one, are printed onto paper.

Study the history of the Atlas Mill originally housed in this building which served as a Kimberly-Clark Corporation paper research center prior to its closing about a decade ago.

FYI: For more information about The Paper Discovery Center, 425 W. Water Street, Appleton, Wisconsin, click here. If you visit the museum, allow yourself plenty of time. We arrived only an hour before closing, leaving us only enough time to make paper and rush through the exhibits.

Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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