- As has been the case for so many locations, the COVID-19 pandemic has hit printing museums hard.
- I might be a little biased as a Massachusetts resident, but I think everyone in the northeastern United States should make a point of visiting the Museum of Printing in Haverhill and joining up as a member.
- Founded in 1875 by William Hatch, Hatch Show Print creates posters for events like circuses, minstrel shows, vaudeville acts, and carnivals.
By Jim Hamilton
Some people just love print, and you can count me among them. It should therefore come as no surprise that my bucket list—the things I hope to do before I die—involves visits to a handful of printing museums and other institutions that are sprinkled across the United States and Canada. What unites these places is a mission that focuses on the graphic arts and type. They often include adherents among the active community of letterpress printers. Although my list has seven such institutions, I’m sure I’ve left a few out. Furthermore, if I expand my view beyond North America, there will be many, many more. Please add a comment to my blog if you have any suggestions for other places to add to my list!
Jim Hamilton’s Bucket List
As a printing fan, my personal bucket list includes visits to the following locations:
- International Printing Museum (Carson, California; south of Los Angeles), printmuseum.org
- Hatch Show Print (Nashville, Tennessee), hatchshowprint.com
- Hamilton Wood Type Museum (Two Rivers, Wisconsin; north of Milwaukee), woodtype.org
- Howard Iron Works (Oakville, Ontario, Canada; southwest of Toronto), howardironworks.org
- Letterform Archive (San Francisco, California), letterformarchive.org
- Museum of Printing (Haverhill, Massachusetts; north of Boston), museumofprinting.org
- The Printing Museum (Houston, Texas), printingmuseum.org
These sites range from smaller operations with perhaps none or only one part-time staff to somewhat larger institutions with a handful of employees. Either way, they all highlight education and are dependent on volunteers to succeed. Their budgets are funded through charitable donations, memberships, tickets, workshop fees, and gift shop purchases. Some also fund their work through sales of refurbished equipment. There is an ongoing and vibrant market for items such as wood and metal type and Vandercook presses in working condition.
The Impact of COVID-19
As has been the case for so many locations, the COVID-19 pandemic has hit printing museums hard. Their doors have closed, which largely eliminates entrance fees and gift shop purchases. You will likely see the doors to these museums begin to reopen soon, but check their websites for further information if you’re planning to visit! Also, consider following these locations on social media—many are very active on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. New memberships would be particularly appreciated, especially during these uncertain times. In addition to granting admission, membership includes benefits like gift shop discounts or access to a quarterly newsletter.
My Experiences So Far
To date, I have only visited two of the places on my bucket list: The Museum of Printing in Haverhill and Hatch Show Print in Nashville. I might be a little biased toward the Museum of Printing in Haverhill since I live in Massachusetts, I serve on its board, I volunteer as a social media coordinator, and I have visited it many times. Most of you are familiar with printing industry luminary Frank Romano, whose videos appear every Friday on WhatTheyThink. Frank is the President of the Museum of Printing and a driving force behind its activities. All of you in the northeastern United States should make a point of visiting this location and joining up as a member.
In November, I will be part of a conference session on the future of printing museums at the American Printing History Association’s annual Wayzgoose (for more information, see www.printinghistory.org). A Wayzgoose is a traditional name for a printer’s party and I was hoping to attend for the first time. My goal in participating in this event was to have a reason to visit the Hamilton Wood Type Museum where the Wayzgoose was to be held this year, but the APHA Wayzgoose has gone virtual due to COVID-19. And now, here’s the best printing pun of 2020—the new name for this year’s conference is the “Awayzgoose” (rim shot).
If you have not been to Hatch Show Print in Nashville, you simply must go. Founded in 1875 by William Hatch, the work was continued by his sons, Charles and Herbert, creating posters for events like circuses, minstrel shows, vaudeville acts, and carnivals. Hatch Show Print posters are particularly emblematic of country music and experienced their height of popularity in the 1920s through the 1950s. Wrestling promoters, churches, plus jazz, blues, and rock & roll acts were also frequent customers. In more recent times, Hatch Show Print has been co-located with the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
Hatch Show Print continues producing posters while simultaneously educating and holding events like art shows. As they say, they are “committed to the future, combining twenty-first century sensibilities with eighteenth century technology.” I visited Hatch Show Print in 2015 and was so impressed by their motto “Preservation through Production” that I wrote a blog about them called “Lessons Learned from Hatch Show Print.” Click here to read that blog!
The Bottom Line
So, I’ve been able to scratch two locations off of my bucket list and I still have at least five more to go. I certainly have my work cut out for me, but I can hardly wait to see what they all have to offer. I hope that you too will find time to visit these places, either virtually for the moment or in person once they are fully open again. From one printing fanatic to another, I promise you won’t regret it!
Jim Hamilton is a well-known industry analyst who serves as Consultant Emeritus for a number of Keypoint Intelligence – InfoTrends’ consulting services. He supports areas including production digital printing, wide format signage, labels & packaging, functional & industrial printing, production workflow & variable data tools, document outsourcing, digital marketing & media, and customer communications.