Region: Wellington Contact person: Chris Lipscombe Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone number: 021 732912 Meeting information: No meetings currently scheduled.
Wellington Centre for Book Arts a Major MilestoneBy Dan Tait-Jamieson, Secretary, The Printing MuseumIn gestation for well over a year and planned for decades, WCBA — the Wellington Centre for Book Arts — opened for business at the end of November, 2019. On the evening of February 15th, 2020, the centre was officially opened by Wellington Central MP and Associate Minister of Arts, Culture and Heritage, Grant Robertson, at the conclusion of an open day and book arts fair.The first of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere, the centre draws its inspiration from the book arts models of Minnesota, London, and San Francisco, in that it embraces a broad definition of the arts and the crafts associated with the book. A wide-ranging mandate makes sense for Wellington, a city of only 200,000 people. It’s also an indication of The Printing Museum’s intentions to extend beyond its printing base and foster artistic and cultural diversity closer to its target audience of students, lovers of art and design, and practitioners of the book arts.A far cry from the sheep and their pastoral products surrounding the Museum’s main facility at Mangaroa, the basement of the beautiful Woolstore Building at 262 Thorndon Quay is now the chic, urban home for the Museum’s new offshoot. It’s just a brisk walk from the railway station, easy for out-of-towners coming by car and only a few minutes from Ngauranga Gorge.The creation of the first book arts centre in the Southern Hemisphere is a major milestone for The Printing Museum. Over the last 30-plus years, the Museum has focussed on the praiseworthy task of accumulating and preserving items of historical interest. The collection has expanded to an internationally significant size and has been matched by the increased capacity of the foundry. The search for a permanent home for the Museum or even a presence in central Wellington has, however, generated serial disappointment over the years.The low point was eight years ago when the Museum lost its Silverstream home and had to move to Mangaroa. The committee at the time faced the possibility of running out of money within a few years. Museums everywhere face this dilemma — if you don’t have a permanent home, you have to pay rent. Inevitably, leases expire and rents rise. Witness the problems of the now defunct Melbourne Museum of Printing, a vast collection now dispersed, some of it finding a home with us. The Penrith Museum of Printing in Sydney, having only recently upgraded its buildings continues to face an uncertain future with the potential sale of the racecourse land it sits on.Fortunately, The Printing Museum has managed thus far to contain its expenses, grow its membership, and double not only its metal type sales but also its overall income. Sales of refurbished machinery have added an important income stream. All that, along with improved systems management and storage, has been critical in building a strong foundation for the Museum.Which brings us back to the WCBA. The long-term future of The Printing Museum was always going to be determined by our ability to engage with and instruct future generations in the art and crafts of printing and complementary crafts. We would only ever have a chance of doing this at a location close to our target markets.Eighteen months after its opening, our ability to hold regular classes in printing, composition, bookbinding, and associated crafts like calligraphy, has been tempered by Wellington’s movement in and out of Covid-19 lockdown. We are halfway through our current three-year lease, during which the viability of the project has been tested. We will need support in terms of finance and patronage to make it a success. With no paid staff, all the work has been voluntary— possibly the only such book arts centre in the world operating this way. This is not a desirable accolade in the long term.The Covid-19 pandemic continues to be a test for all public organisations and venues. While there is early evidence of increased interest in home-based activities, the outlook for community ones looks grim. For the present, we’re still here. The WCBA is an enormous achievement for The Printing Museum and a source of pride for those who made it happen. We look forward to welcoming existing and new supporters when we are able to open properly in 2022.Kia kaha.
Repairing an 18th century Bible in the bindery, Wellington Centre for Book Arts.
Repairing an 18th century Bible in the bindery,
Wellington Centre for Book Arts