Amid continuing plant closures, Australia’s Single Width Users Group has “put in” to ensure that traditional printing crafts and machinery are preserved.
The group has announced $125,000 in donations to the Museum of Printing in Penrith, NSW – to fund a substantial extension. The money comes from a surplus from the group’s annual technical conferences, which in turn are heavily supported by industry vendor sponsors.
Committee members agreed that “the money came from the industry, and it should go back into the industry”.
Delegates to the 2016 conference – held at the nearby Panthers events centre – visited the museum last Saturday, en route for a tour of Fairfax Media’s North Richmond print centre.
They saw a “live” collection of letterpress printing and hot-metal composing machinery dating back to 1867.
Credit for foundation of the museum – which opened in 2001 with the help of an Federation anniversary grant – goes to Allan Connell. Moved by the closure of the local Nepean Times, and urged by his daughter, the former linotype operator bought the letterpress plant and started looking for somewhere to put it on show. Then when he was despairing of finding anywhere, the Penrith & District AH&I (who run Penrith Paceway) came to the rescue.
It’s the premises on their site that the museum hopes to extend. Plans provide for an extra five metres at the front and two metres at the side, relocating the current canteen space and creating a walled-off display area and foyer.
An 1880s Wharfedale – made by W. Dawson (of Dawson, Payne & Elliott fame) in Otley, UK – a US-made Model 8 Linotype linecaster and a Chandler & Price guillotine from the Nepean Times were the starting point. After Connell had pointed to the closed newspaper building and remarked to his daughter that it was “history about to go to Sims,” she asked, “Why don’t you do something about it.”
He did, and now about 25 active members – including SWUG president Bob Lockley, a former compositor who “tries to be as active as possible” – keep the equipment running with the museum open from 10am-2pm every Saturday (long weekends excluded). The museum members also teach letterpress crafts to visitors and others.
Other equipment on live show includes a Model 5 Linotype, a Chandler & Price treadle platen, a Ludlow headline caster, Vandercook proofing machine, Vertical Miehle letterpress, a Heidelberg platen and a Cundall folder. The museum also has other equipment in store, “more than enough to fill the extension”.
Under current president Stephen Brique – and with the support of the Paceway, SWUG and businesses including Barry Boné’s Petrolink Engineering (which is storing machinery and prepared the outline plans) and IPMG group commercial printer Offset Alpine, the museum prepares to expand its commitment to “preserve the past for the future”.