2016 will usher in a new collaboration aimed at advancing the Wisconsin Idea, and preserving a treasured piece of University of Wisconsin–Madison history. Beginning in January, the UW–Madison Libraries launch a partnership with Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum to house and care for the Libraries’ historic Silver Buckle Press and its collection.
Silver Buckle Press is a working museum of letterpress printing dedicated to preserving the craft of fine printing through educational programming, publications, exhibitions, and tours. When Silver Buckle Director Tracy Honn announced plans to retire in 2016, discussions about how to maintain Silver Buckle began immediately. Due to budget cuts, the Libraries realized filling Honn’s position wouldn’t be a possibility. While Honn’s departure isn’t a result of the budget, it did present a challenge for ensuring the future of Silver Buckle. The desire to preserve Silver Buckle’s mission and history, as well as maintain the integrity of its collection was paramount.
The opportunity to preserve Silver Buckle while increasing its accessibility soon presented itself, thanks to a long-standing relationship Honn had generated with the internationally known Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum in Two Rivers, Wisconsin.
“We have been able to craft an elegant solution to a difficult situation,” said Ed Van Gemert, Vice Provost for Libraries and University Librarian. “Tracy’s exceptional knowledge of Silver Buckle’s importance and her relationship through the years with Hamilton will help us keep one of our treasured pieces of history intact and accessible. Our partnership with Hamilton will preserve a unique collection and continue to make it available throughout Wisconsin and beyond. This is truly the Wisconsin Idea in action.”
Hamilton is the country’s largest museum dedicated to type and printing, and is a working printing museum offering workshops and classes to people from all over the country. The addition of Silver Buckle to the museum offers an increased ability by Hamilton to instruct museum visitors, while expanding the reach of Silver Buckle by pairing it with an internationally recognized museum solely focused on letterpress printing history and education.
Silver Buckle was acquired by the Libraries in 1973 from Robert Shaftoe’s estate, at the urging of retired UW–Madison Art professor Walter Hamady. Shaftoe was an art director at the Ford Motor Company and a hobby printer. At UW–Madison, Silver Buckle Press staff have produced hand printed books and broadsides of distinction along with symposia and exhibitions. Countless University students have received special instruction via individual and group tours that covered printing history, including hands-on demonstrations of typesetting and printing. Students on staff had the rare opportunity to work with significant printing history materials and receive specialized training in printing and curation.
“I am mindful that this will be surprising news for friends on campus and across the country. This is an excellent solution to what felt like a dire challenge. Importantly, the transition will preserve the collections and mission of Silver Buckle Press,” said Honn. “I’m convinced the move represents new opportunities for teaching and access that we don’t have now. For UW–Madison students the press will not be right around the corner, but the sense that it is a home away from home will always be true. Hamilton is committed to honoring the press and to this new partnership with the UW–Madison Libraries. We could not have better stewards than the staff at Hamilton who will give our collection new life. I am excited to see the work that will emerge.”
The Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum is the only museum dedicated to the preservation, study, production and printing of wood type. With 1.5 million pieces of wood type and more than 1,000 styles and sizes of patterns, Hamilton’s collection is one of the premier wood type collections in the world.
“Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum is pleased to make a home for Silver Buckle Press. We are honored the University of Wisconsin will allow us to be the caretakers of this stellar printing history collection. This partnership with the University will be beneficial to the museum in many ways,” said Jim Moran, Hamilton Museum Director. “Silver Buckle Press will expand the range of Hamilton’s educational offerings, fitting our core mission to preserve printing history. Our commitment is to maintain Silver Buckle Press as a secured collection. It will be used by teachers and students of books arts to support the intensive study of hand set metal type and fine printing. This is a new opportunity for us, one that we are very excited to support.”
As part of the agreement, Hamilton will receive Silver Buckle Press as a long-term loan beginning in spring 2016, running through December 2025. The Silver Buckle collection will have its own dedicated and secure space at Hamilton, helping to preserve the name of Silver Buckle Press, and honoring its UW history. In addition, the UW Digital Collections Center will work with Hamilton on digitization projects related to Silver Buckle’s and Hamilton’s collections, which will be hosted through the Libraries’ online collections. The Libraries and Hamilton continue to discuss additional ways to partner, such as helping to facilitate an annual visit to Hamilton for a special workshop for UW students and faculty.
“Maintaining this collection within Wisconsin continues to make it available to residents of the state as well as students, researchers, and scholars from UW–Madison,” said Van Gemert. “This transfer strengthens the outreach of the University and honors the Wisconsin Idea. We are pleased to work with Hamilton and look forward to the opportunities that will come from this partnership.”
An open house will be held January 29, 2016 in Madison at Silver Buckle Press in Memorial Library from 3pm-6pm. It is free and open to the public. For more information on Silver Buckle Press, please visit: www.library.wisc.edu/silverbucklepress.