Flood Relief: A Weekend at Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum

The standing water from the flooding at Hamilton.

This past weekend I traveled to Two Rivers, Wisconsin to the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum. As you know from my last post, this trip had been planned months ago, and my classmates and I had been looking forward to a weekend of volunteering and printing and general small town hanging out.

A cleaned piece of wood type surrounded by steel wool shavings.

But on Friday morning my Facebook feed was slammed with posts from Hamilton and a ton of my printing friends asking for help after a night of heavy rain had flooded a good chunk of the museum. Obviously cases upon cases upon cases of wood type and prints do not mix well with eight inches of water on the floor. So, before we headed out, the six of us that were going grabbed our galoshes from the paper studio, and mentally prepared for a weekend of flood cleanup. By the time we got there Saturday afternoon, much of the water had either been removed or had drained away. What was left were many cases of type that had been exposed to water. Over years of use, wood type gradually absorbs ink. When you introduce water to that type, all of the ink that has been slowly absorbed year after year, rises to the surface, coating the type in an intense layer of inky gunk. And so, I spent my weekend, steel wool in hand, gently removing that ink from hundreds of pieces of type.


Book and Paper student Jillian Bruschera holds ones of Hamilton's giant pieces of type before printing.

As I reflect on the last year, and the topics I’ve covered here on Marginalia, I realize that the topic of community has come up a lot. As I walked around Two Rivers this past weekend, a great sense of familiarity and connection kind of swelled up. To have the Hamilton Museum so near Chicago is, as I’m sure I said before, so amazing. And each time I go to visit, I get more and more attached to the type collection, the Hamilton factory where the museum is held, and the town of Two Rivers. Going there is like going to another version of home. And, oh yes, community…

Our community of printers, binders, and paper makers is so small. And there aren’t many institutions like Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum that operate not only from the position of history and preservation, but also from one of activity – still printing, educating, and growing. It is so important for us to support each other, in times of need, like this weekend, but also outside of those times. So, I’ll be heading back to Two Rivers later in the summer, probably twice, to show my support for this really wonderful place.