Friday, October 7, 2011

The first museum of the month: Hamilton Wood Type

The first museum I attended as part of my October challenge was the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum at 1619 Jefferson St in Two Rivers. I had visited this museum shortly after I moved to town with my parents about 5 years ago, and I wasn't too impressed. However, I watched a program about the wood type museum on PBS last week and it made me want to give it a second chance.

For those of you who don't know what wood type is (and I didn't before I went to the museum), it's the wooden blocks with letters carved onto them that were used to print newspapers, posters and billboards in the early 1900s before they came up with more modern methods. They have, I would guess, several thousand different types of fonts at the museum, with maybe 50 or so displayed. They also have a lot of the machines that they used to make the type displayed. Since I've been there last, they have made quite a few improvements. For one thing, it was warm in there. Last time I went it was during the winter and it was about 45 degrees in the building (I'm probably exaggerating). They have a lot more type displayed in neat cases that were made by volunteers. There's a nice young woman working there, who told me she had been hired 2 months ago as the assistant curator. She enjoyed that I was trying to visit every museum in the county and even asked for my blog address (believe it or not, I don't think I told her the right address). Also, the museum is a lot hipper than I remember. While I was there, a young couple about my age walked in and started taking pictures, and then a family. I'll be honest that I don't understand how people even see the museum- it's not on a main street, and it kind of just fades into the rest of the Hamilton factory. My best advice is they not only need to advertise a little, but they need a bigger sign so people know they are there and are OPEN!

While I was there a volunteer was using a press to print on the paper bags they use for any souvenirs bought at the museum. I watched her for a little while, which was pretty interesting. What I found neat was that they still allow people to come in and use the wood type to make things. It's mostly the artsy type of people who get into it, but they have samples of some of the things they made hanging on the walls and it's very old-school. My new friend the assistant curator said they have some sort of get together for people who love wood type called Wayzgoose 2 2011 in November at the museum and they are expecting over 100 people to come from all over the country.

My overall impression: I would recommend everyone go there just once to envision what work used to go into the making of a simple newspaper or banner. I can honestly say I had never even thought about wood type before ever in my life before visiting this museum, but now I do have an appreciation for it as an art form. A lot of the fonts are beautiful and decorative.

Also, and most exciting in my opinion, is that Target recently visited the museum and selected many different types of wood type for their new fall line of clothing. They had some of it for sale at the museum, but of course Target has even more. When I saw one of my friends post the link on Facebook to the Target commercial for it, I was like, "NO WAY! THAT'S IN MY TOWN!" This is the link to see all the goods at Target. com The commercial is towards the bottom of the page so you can watch that too.

Would I recommend? Yes
Awesomeness level (1=sucky, 5=CAN'T MISS): 3
Hours: Mon-Sat 9-5
Time required: less than 30 minutes

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