A Moveable Museum of Wooden Type

A+A contributor Rita Catinella Orrell brings us a new post today, on a Wisconsin-based museum of wooden type. Rita’s been writing for the design press for more than 17 years, covering interior design, home furnishings, kitchen and bath design, as well as  architectural building products. She’s written and edited for Contract Design, HFN, SNAP, and Architectural Record, among others. And she’s also a published poet; her chapbook, Stuck in the Dream Wheel, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2005. Here’s her newest post, with links to her websites at the end:

Jim Moran got some bad news last October while preparing for the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum’s annual conference in Two Rivers, Wis.

Moran, the director of the world’s only museum dedicated to the preservation, study, production, and printing of wood type, was told by his landlord that the museum had six months to find a new home.

The news wasn’t entirely a shock. Moran and his small team had noticed that the building owner, lab equipment manufacturer Thermo Fisher Scientific, had begun downsizing the employees that shared the massive but rapidly deteriorating building. Founded in 1999, the museum took up 12,000-square-feet (with an additional 25,000 for storage) of a three-block long, 1.3 million-square-foot facility that the Hamilton Manufacturing Company had built, and added to from 1910 to 1926. The manufacturer had donated free rent, lighting, and heat to the museum, but was now closing its Two Rivers plant and moving production elsewhere.

Moran quickly had to raise the estimated $250,000 needed to pack up and move the world’s largest collection of type, and cover the lost income of closing as well as salaries for the staff. “That really left it to the three of us to devise a way we could raise the money,” he says. “Of course, nobody knew if we could do it.”

Through generous donations, the museum raised the funds. And by mid-March, Moran had found the museum’s new home: an 85,000 square-foot mid-century factory building with a view of Lake Michigan, owned by the Formrite Tube Company. While the new building is just 10 blocks from the original, the logistics of moving the collection, ranging from small bits of type to equipment weighing over a ton, was a challenge. “I had estimated we needed 17 semi loads of equipment, but we moved 26,” he says.

Despite a broken display case and a little cracking on the wood block bases of some of the equipment pieces, the entire collection was safely relocated by the first week of May.

The fate of the original Hamilton factory is uncertain. “We fear that it is going to be demolished,” says Moran. “We wish it could be saved, but we think there is a really good chance that some of it, if not all of it, will come down.”

While current expenses prohibit hiring an architect, Moran’s optimistic about finding someone willing to donate consulting time to help out with the new space. And he plans to reopen by October, in time for the museum’s annual conference, one that draws attendees from around the world.

To learn more about the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum or to make a donation visit http://woodtype.org. The museum’s annual Wayzoose conference will take place November 8th – 10th in its new building at 1816 10th Street, Two Rivers, Wisconsin.

– Rita Catinella Orrell

For more by Rita Catinella Orrell, go to http://designythings.com/ and http://www.architects-toybox.com/.

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