In its long-awaited New York City debut, Kartemquin’s Typeface will be screening on May 14th from 1 to 3 PM as a part of the Parsons New School of Design Festival 2012. The screening will be a followed by a panel discussion with director (and Kartemquin executive director) Justine Nagan, Repeat Press' Mike Dacey, Chris Piascik, and Nancy Laboz of Parcel. The Festival runs from May 1st through May 20th and features primarily cutting-edge student work in various media. Typeface examines the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, and the broader social context behind the advance of artistic technology.
As a historic site that preserves an analog craft in a field where digital technology has surged ahead, Hamilton is a site of convergence—between international artists and retired craftsmen, traditional technique and modern design, urban and rural lifestyles. Its history dates from 1880, when the Hamilton Wood Type foundry was constructed near the western shore of Lake Michigan. “Ed” Hamilton bought out his competition and by the early twentieth century had become the world’s biggest manufacturer of wood type. The company at one point employed over 2000 people.
By the 1950s, however, offset printing and phototypesetting equipment had revolutionized the field of typography, quickly making wood type outmoded. In 1985, Hamilton made their last wood type, and in 1999, the building became a “living” museum of print history. The museum, located in a building made in 1926, houses 1.5 million pieces of wood type ranging from 2 picas to 6 feet tall. In the functioning printing studio, visitors can study the 12 presses and twenty cabinets of type spanning decades of design history.
Former Hamilton employees—now in their 80s—populate the museum, which is staffed mainly by volunteers, giving demonstrations and sharing stories from their past. Since the release of Typeface, the museum has received increased attention from printers, typographers, professors, and students all over the country, who attend workshops and seminars. On weekends, design students can often be found experiencing analog type for the first time, coming to grips with the beauty and intricacies of typographic history.
Last week, storms in Two Rivers resulted in four inches of rain, and the museum had over an inch of standing water. The museum is raising money to pay to fix the roof, dry off the wood type blocks, and buy more paper towels to stop further water damage. Images of the museum and the ensuing clean-up efforts can be found on the museum's Facebook page.
Click here for more information on Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum, and be sure to check out the Typeface web site, Facebook, and Twitter page!