Museum of Metal Typography

Learn all about the forgotten craft of metal typography creation at this gem of a museum hidden away in NE Portland.

Oooo I have a good one for you too day.  It’s way up in NE Portland, just a couple miles short of the Washington border and tucked away in an industrial park.  This little museum is a hidden Portland gem that’s only open to the public once a month.  It’s goal: preserving the knowledge and machinery used to make metal type.  The C.C. Stern Type Foundry is a dedicated group of volunteers who maintain and use the equipment that kept us all in books and newspapers for most of the 20th century (and earlier).  

Museum of Typography metal spoon

Museum of Typography type machine

I am not going to even attempt to lay down what I learned here, but it was fascinating and really cool to see.  The equipment here makes the actual metal pieces used in letter press, newspaper and book printing. Type setting (the arranging of those pieces of metal) and printing is whole different thing.  I was absolutely blown away my the machines that did this.  The mechanical engineering behind it is impressive.

Museum of Typography pattern print

Museum of Typography machine cartridge

Until I visited  I never even considered this aspect of printing.  I guess I just took for granted the actual metal “sorts” (a word I learned during the tour) needed to create a piece of print.  But not any more.  There is so much design and engineering behind these machines. It’s really a window into the past and these machines would be long forgotten if not for museums and clubs like this.

Museum of Typography linotype

Museum of Typography metal letters

They are open the third Saturday of each month. During that time they have many of the machines turned on and will give you a tour and do some demonstrations.   Or if you have a group, you can schedule a private tour.  I think graphic design and industrial design students would find this very enlightening.  But museum nerds like myself will love it too.  

Happy printing!

Museum of Typography type book

Museum of Typography hand type nerd



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