by Jim Moran
How do you make sense of 100 crates of printing blocks? Enter Collection Management professional Paul Pegnato. In a way, getting the collection from Enquirer Printing in Cincinnati was the easy part. The problem was, once you open a crate and realize you have a pile of blocks that range from 2 sheet poster size, (52” x 40”) to magnesium and zinc mounted blocks as big as your hand, random pieces of type and every size in between, you have to put it somewhere.
While Paul has a Masters in Collections Management from Ryerson University in Toronto, his degree in photography was a bonus, as was his experience as a printer. He was inspired by a talk at Wayzgoose in 2016 and offered to help.
We had many conversations about the collection, how it would be used, what our naming structure would be and how it would be accessed. Everything from cleaning, photography, handling, storage and eventual digital database had to be considered.
Paul made four month-long trips to Hamilton this past year. I had decided we would begin with the ugliest crate I could find, as it would pose the most questions and force us to answer the most varied situations we would encounter.
That was the correct assumption. Stations were created to unpack, sort by category, clean, photograph and shelve by topic and name as best we could. Several crates were merely stacked two-sheeters and needed pallet racking built to house them. Boxes were made for standard sizes and smaller shelves were built for window card and smaller images.
We found hand-carved type, turn of the century copper plated theatre portraits, Johnny Lynch and his Dare Devil Drivers, more circus names than you could imagine, burlesque models, Reefer Madness promos, clowns of every ilk, a Congress of Oddities in the form of circus freaks, bananas 4 feet tall, billboard puzzles that were 20 feet long and formed a giant polar bear, guitar gals from the Renfro Valley Jamboree, Cowboy Ken Maynard’s head the size of a garage door and Aska, the baby wizard!
Our progress went well and help came in to assist. We have 270 feet of pallet racking, 120 feet of shelves and the data base is beginning. Still, there’s about 60 more crates to go but the results are stunning. Stay tuned.