A lot of ink under the bridge: Jim Moran's legacy at Hamilton

After nearly 15 years at the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum (HWT&PM), Master Printer and Collections Officer Jim Moran will retire at the end of December 2023. Moran served as the museum’s director from 2009–2019 and as Master Printer and Collections Officer from 2019–2023. Throughout his career, Moran has been deeply committed to preserving letterpress printing both for its historical importance and as a means of contemporary artistic expression.

Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum
Jim Moran (right) with Bill Moran (center) and Jim Sherraden. 

As the museum’s longest-serving director, Moran’s legacy is one of growth. Moran made the museum a hospitable place for the print community while raising the museum’s visibility. With his brother and Artistic Director Bill Moran, he planned the first Wayzgoose conference, held in 2009 (Moran’s first year as Director). With Moran’s work, HWT&PM became an internationally renowned museum for the design and printing community.

Hamilton Wood Type & Printing MuseumStephanie Carpenter (left), Jim Moran, and Bill Moran at the museum's 10th Wayzgoose conference.

Moran and fellow museum staff members fostered a welcoming atmosphere that attracted passionate ambassadors. He helped establish an HWT&PM executive board which led to the independence of the museum as its own 501(c) organization in 2021. 

Hamilton Wood Type & Printing MuseumJim Moran (left) with Tracy Honn, Museum Board Chair. 

In 2013, Moran along with Stephanie Carpenter (now Program Officer) led the relocation of the museum from its original site at the Hamilton Manufacturing plant to its current location.

Hamilton Wood Type & Printing MuseumStephanie Carpenter (Left) and Jim Moran with the outdoor metal 'Hamilton' sign relocated from the original Hamilton manufacturing building. 

Necessitated by the imminent closure of the Jefferson Street manufacturing facility, the move was a herculean task. With the help of many volunteers, the move was completed in time for hosting the Wayzgoose gathering in the museum’s new home.

Hamilton Wood Type & Printing MuseumJim moving type cases into the museum's new, relocated space.  

Between 2013 and 2019, Moran worked tirelessly to consolidate the museum’s holdings, marshaling the combined efforts of staff and volunteers to provide a stable physical environment for responsibly storing and organizing the museum's expanding collections.

Hamilton Wood Type & Printing MuseumJim Moran (far right) with museum staff and volunteers. 

Moran supervised the intake of the Globe Collection (acquired in 2004) and expanded the museum to include the Enquirer Collection (2015).

Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum
Jim Moran (background on left) and Jim Sherraden organizing storage of the Enquirer block collection. 

While both collections contain vintage type and printing blocks, the Enquirer Collection is much older and larger, with multi-color 20th-century hand carved printing blocks that were used for advertising  circuses, touring companies, and musical revues. 

Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum
Jim Sherraden (left), Jim Moran, and Stephanie Carpenter examine a vintage multi-color lion print from the collection. 

Moran established a large Classroom and a separate Pressroom to meet the demanding needs of a working printing museum. He did extensive research into the care and use of materials in the Enquirer collection, working with vintage printing blocks to produce masterful prints for purchase in the museum’s Dry Goods Store. 

Hamilton Wood Type & Printing MuseumStephanie Carpenter (left) and Jim Moran inking a locked-up design for printing. 

Moran organized space on the building’s second floor to house the museum’s print archives, and books of original and secondary publications about printing and design. Additionally, the library houses Hamilton Manufacturing materials saved by Moran when the old facility’s contents were dispersed. He also partnered with UW-Madison Libraries on a digitizing project to preserve and share books from the museum’s library.

Hamilton Wood Type & Printing MuseumJim Moran (left) printing for a visitor at the museum. 

Moran worked with museum staff to provide enriching and technically proficient print-centered public programming. He supervised artist residency spaces and the Visiting Artist program, which paired the museum’s resources with prominent skilled printmakers to forge enduring collaborations that deepen the understanding of the collections.

Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum
Jim Moran (right) with visiting artist Kelly Walters, who printed at the museum in 2022 under a WI Humanities Council grant. 

Moran worked to preserve Hamilton Manufacturing company history, notably conducting oral history interviews with former Hamilton employees to preserve essential knowledge of the material culture of wood type.

Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum
Jim Moran (right) interviewing former Hamilton employee Don Konop as part of the 'Hamilton Histories' project. 

He has overseen the ongoing production of wood type, and–along with the gracious help of volunteers–has helped to train a new generation of type cutters. 

Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum
Jim Moran (center) with Georgie Liesch (left), Hamilton's Master Typecutter who apprenticed under Mardell Doubek (right), a retired Hamilton's Manufacturing typecutter. 

In 2019, Moran stepped aside as Director to become the museum’s Master Printer and Collections Officer. This new role allowed him to focus on caring for and printing with vintage blocks from the museum’s collections. Moran’s most recent projects include an Enquirer Collection restrike of a four-color six-panel horse racing poster, and a large 2024 calendar showcasing a wide variety of unique wood type specimens from the collection.

Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum
Jim Moran (right) with Assistant Printer H.R. Buechler in front of the 6-panel, 4-color horse racing restrike print they produced. 

Jim Moran’s dedication to letterpress printing has been a catalyst for the growth of the museum to its present-day status as an internationally renowned organization. As a third-generation printer with commercial and non-profit experience, Moran had a keen ability to preserve and share history, making him truly irreplaceable. After retirement, he plans to continue his involvement with HWT&PM as a volunteer.

Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum

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