Printers think museum should downsize

A ProPrint poll asking readers what should be done about the Melbourne Museum of Printing (MMOP) has shown the majority of printers at 44 per cent are in support of the establishment auctioning off most of its kit and opening a smaller museum.

The second most popular option is forming an action committee to work out a new way forward with 28 per cent of the votes, while 16 per cent say all the equipment should be dumped, with only 12 per cent of printers say the industry should need to chip in cash to help raise the $500,000 needed for the museum’s unpaid rent.

The MMOP is by far the biggest collection of printing memorabilia in the country. It has been run by its founder and curator, Michael Isaachsen, now in his 70s, who has made it his life’s work.

Currently Isaachsen remains locked out of the premises, with a suspended lease notice from his landlord on account of his unpaid half million dollar rent bill.

Isaachsen is against the majority vote and essentially wants the Museum – which is by far Australia’s biggest print museum – to remain at a similar size. He says downsizing will not solve the musuem’s current issues.

He says, “If we downsize, we would not save any money. Even if we half our size and move away, we would have to pack up, transport and set it all up again and the expenses would be enormous, they would offset any savings. Our main objective right now it keep our landlord happy.

[Related: Museum: no clear way forward]

James Taylor, co-owner of local family owned offset printer Taylor’d Press is in support of the popular vote to downsize. He says, “I reckon it is a great idea. The Museum would be able to have a massive clean up, down size and have some funds to be put towards its debts and everyone else would have the chance to pick up a part of history whether it be presses, cabinets or books. Great result to see rather than it all going to the scrap heap.

“Unfortunately it is not industry owned, it is a privately owned museum. Might be a chance for a new beginning with an new management.

"After many discussions with my peers I feel everyone wants a Museum of some description. It needs to have the right organisation running the Museum with good intentions and enabling everyone in the design and print industry to be able to access the Museum for school tours, workshops, open days and to simply promote print and spark the idea of people wanting to print. Having positive energy in the industry is much better than negative.”

Isaachsen says, “It is foolish for a museum to downsize without cataloguing everything it has. It is an obvious thing for someone who does not know the museum to say we should get rid of some of the things we have, if you looked through our collection you would be hard-pressed to know what to discard.

“Without a lot of the things we have, Australia would not have this museum documenting the craft and history of print. Other printing museums stick to letterpress but the history does not stop there. There was lots of innovation in the 60s, 70s, 80s. If we half the size of the museum, it will not be a museum, it will be a studio. There needs to be a place in 200 years where future generations can look back at printing in 2018.

“The problem is that we do not have a workforce and we need staff to run our workshops, catalogue everything, sort our admin work and help out volunteers.

[Related: Museum of Printing goes into limbo]

Isaachsen says since the Museum’s situation was reported on last week, he has had interest in donations.

“People have been contacting, not all of them have money but they want to help. We are gradually getting closer to someone who can grant a loan but it is difficult with a museum, there is no experience of how much it could make. We need to find a lender who can look closer, and give a grant or sponsorship to help pay our rent.

“The museum can do a lot for the printing industry. A lot of people in the community do not know about it and they are not conscious of it. There are different branches now, such as wide format and now it is going into digital and online and we want to showcase all of it.

The PIAA declined to comment.

For anyone looking to have their say on the matter, the poll remains open.

Comment below to have your say on this story.

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