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Printing at the museum

Our guest blog comes from Print shop volunteer Chris Pink, for all regular visitors to the museum the large printing press events posters are very familiar, Chris explains how these iconic posters came about and how a dedicated team of volunteers is responsible for the upkeep of our print workshop.

Posters & Publicity

10 years ago we had a meeting at the Museum to look at publicity and printing publicity materials, particularly larger posters.  We could all print A4 at Home and one person said that they had access to a photo copier that could enlarge to A3 when I suddenly had one of those “moments”.

“We’ve got a printing press here in one of the craft workshops, what do we need to print posters?”

A phone call to Bev, one of our volunteers who is a bookbinder in Norwich and used to work for Jarrolds the printers and the ball was rolling.

The hunt for wood type

We needed wood type; Bev knew of some for sale somewhere on the English/Welsh border, we got agreement from the Friends of the Museum that they would pay, he set off in his van with his dog and came back with cardboard boxes of wood type that we then had to clean and sort in the conservation lab.

A couple of weeks later Bev was in conversation with a local printer who also had some wood type for sale so we bought some more!

Bev then showed us how set type on the Columbia press and we duly produced our first poster for the first event of the 2003 season.

printing at the museum

Since then we have printed large posters for every event held at the Museum and also for other clubs and groups when asked; we also mass produce bookmarks as freebies for Museum visitors, Christmas cards and other material as needed.

As well as the Columbia lever pull press, we also have an “Arab” treadle operated platen press, a smaller “Model” press and several small “Adana presses which have the advantage of being easily (relatively) portable so that we can take them out to other events and shows.  In addition we have a very rare Ransomes Queen lever pull press that we use for printing A3 sized posters and for kids of all ages to have a go themselves.

Over the years we have built up a good selection of wood type in various sizes and type faces and also have quite a lot of lead type.  In addition, we have a good selection of picture blocks, both old and new.

Getting involved

We still receive phone calls from people whose father, uncle, grandfather, whatever used to be a printer and would we like to take away all of their equipment.  The ground rules are – if it’s lead type, say “maybe”, if it’s a platen press, ask what the rollers are like (getting print rollers replaced or recovered is expensive) and if it’s wood type say “yes” and we’ll sort it out later.  Lead type is still being cast and anyway we’ve probably got enough for our needs but wood type is getting increasingly hard to find and hasn’t been made for a long time.

During the Museum’s season we are printing every Saturday and always welcome new volunteers who want to have a go and get their hands inky (we provide hand wipes).

When we’re there and visitors come in we can print A4 posters for kids with their names on and there is a donations tin to help pay for ink and other consumables.  Over the years the income received in donations has meant that we are financially self supporting but I have developed an ability to knock on doors of local printers and similar companies to ensure that we are well supplied with donations of paper, card and ink.

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