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Just our type: Exhibit highlights artistry, history

The Hamilton Wood Type show at the Lawton Gallery was over a year and a half in the making, began Museum Director, Jim Moran in his pre- art opening presentation Thursday afternoon (Sept. 10). He addressed a roomful of students, faculty, staff, retirees, and alumni, acknowledging the combined efforts of UW-Green Bay Graphic Design Prof. Jeff Benzow and now retired Lawton Gallery Curator, Steven Perkins for bringing the exhibition to fruition along with thanks to Laura Schley, Interim Lawton Gallery Curator.

The importance of letterpress, virtually the sole vehicle for mass communications in 1880, set the stage for Moran’s talk, explaining how the Hamilton Manufacturing Co. progressively bought out all other producers of wood type within 15 years of its opening, becoming the premier wood type manufacturer and only company of its kind in the nation. This meant that the Hamilton Museum bore tremendous responsibility to preserve the history of the type making industry in the United States through archiving, continued production and education.

Moran’s talk touched on the history of the wood type industry and Hamilton Manufacturing, tools of wood type production and its process, and Museum’s continued operation in present day. Located in Two Rivers, Wis., the Hamilton facility is a “working museum” — a collection of 1.5 million pieces of wood type in more than 1,000 styles and sizes, a working print studio, art gallery, and production shop that continues to manufacture wood type, holds printing workshops, and hosts interns. In 2012, the Museum was forced to move, an endeavor that took 27 semi-loads, an army of volunteers and several months to complete.

Moran delighted attendees with anecdotes, one being of some unusual items found in the large and unorganized collections donated to the Hamilton Museum. He cited the day he found a portrait block of a young Miles Davis as “a good day” and a mirror-image relief likeness of Ray Charles — “another good day.”

“Even those that don’t study type are extremely aware of it. People can tell at-a-glance if a font is ‘retro’ or replicating a style,” Moran put into words the pervasive presence of typography in the world today. Similarly he stated, “Type is well-designed so we don’t have to notice it. Nobody reads a book for two to three hours and says, ‘Man, Baskerville, so easy on the eyes!’”

A Green Bay, Wis. native, Jim Moran is a third generation print-maker and former UW-Green Bay student.

(Click thumbnails to enter slideshow view.)

– Photos by Kimberly Vlies, Office of Marketing and University Communication

The Lawton exhibition runs through Oct. 1 and features a collection of wood type alongside various letterpress printed posters created by Hamilton Manufacturing. All Lawton Gallery events are free and open to the public. For more information about the Lawton Gallery visit www.uwgb.edu/lawton.

For more information about the Hamilton Wood Type Museum, visit woodtype.org.