There are a few interesting print-related museums in my neighborhood. A particularly nice one is the ‘Nationaal museum van de speelkaart’ in Turnhout – Belgium, which I visited during the summer of 2008. Below are some pictures from this visit. The museum doesn’t seem to have a website in English – those who speak Dutch can find more information on this page.
The museum has a nice collection of printing presses. You can get pretty close to all the equipment and see how it works.
Volunteers still operate these presses once a week. Unfortunately we picked the wrong day to visit the museum and didn’t get to see this. All the equipment lying around does make the place look like an actual production environment instead of a static, stuffy museum.
From the 19th century onwards a lot of printers in and around the city of Turnhout printed playing cards. This tradition continues even today with companies like Cartamundi, who specialize in collectibles and trading cards. Most of the presses that are on display in the museum came from such local printing plants.
A lot of the printing presses on display were powered by steam. There is a central drive shaft going through the main hall of the museum to power the machines. One of the rooms in the museum holds a large coal powered steam engine. It is so big that I couldn’t fit the two cylinder engine and its main wheel in a single picture. Below is a detail of the lubrication mechanism for one of the cylinders.
Here’s another example of jobs that are printed in the museum. There are many nice examples of the use of spot colors on display.
Hidden in a corner of the museum was this old manually operated press. The light was pretty awful so I had to lean against a door frame to come up with a somewhat decent image.
Hanging to the left of the press was this beautiful tool. My pals at the B4print forums told me it is an ink dabber, used for inking up the composited metal type.
If you like such photographs check out the other pages with pictures of printing museums.