Thousands of Melbourne Museum of Printing exhibits to go under hammer

The entire contents of the Melbourne Museum of Printing are set to be auctioned with nearly 800 lots of equipment up for grabs including a 200-year-old Albion press and other equipment dating back to the 1930s and 1940s.

The collection of printing machines and other printing related items was gathered by the museum’s owner, Michael Isaachsen, over decades with The Age reporting last year that its combined worth was somewhere “north of $2 million”.

Despite having such a huge collection of equipment and a large warehouse in which to display it in West Footscray, the Melbourne Museum of Printing had difficulties and in February 2018, its landlord shuttered the building with outstanding rent said to be around $500,000.

The collection of equipment, literature, furniture and all manner of items has now been collated into lots and is set to go under the hammer by Jason Gollant of Gollant Auctioneers and Valuers in Melbourne in November, on behalf of the building owner.

“We are acting on instructions from the landlord and the landlord has had to take possession of the building,” Gollant told Sprinter.

“The website is not complete yet but there is going to be over 780 lots and the auction will be over two days. An online sale will be for the first 300 lots to deal with the printing related equipment and then there is also a whole lot of other general collectables that may not be specifically printing related but could have a printing flavor to it in the sale on Saturday the 30th of November.

“It’s going to be a big sale.”

An example of the Melbourne Museum of Print pieces of equipment up for sale

The auction marks the end of the museum and with it the potential loss of heritage to the printing industry, which continues to move on fast forward.

Whether there is a place for a museum of this kind in Victoria remains to be seen, but the time and associated costs required to keep one running cannot be underestimated.

The Penrith Museum of Printing in Sydney is running well and has a dedicated board and teams of volunteers that run the museum which attracts regular visitors. It is Australia’s only working museum and has the support of the Print & Visual Communication Association and is viewed as world class when it comes to museums of this type.

Neil Southerington, owner of equipment supplier Graffica, operates a small letterpress museum in regional Victoria, The Linton Forge and Print Shop, and said he would be interested in looking into the auction to see if he could add anything of interest to his museum. The Linton Forge and Print Shop opens at certain periods of the year and attracts decent visitor numbers, particularly when combined with other events in the area like the Golden Plains Art Trail.

PVCA chief executive officer Andrew Macaulay said it was a shame to see a piece of printing industry history disappear but said he had no doubt there would be a number of interested printers in Australia that might like to pick up a few items for their collections.

“The auction is an opportunity for the Penrith Museum of Print to acquire some pieces that they may not otherwise have had and we’ve had some contact from members who have been monitoring the situation and are interested in acquiring pieces themselves,” Macaulay told Sprinter.

“There is a good deal of interest within the industry for preserving history.

“As an industry association we are very supportive of the Penrith Museum of Printing because it is community backed and volunteer resourced museum and obviously that model works.”

James Taylor, the owner of Taylor’d Press, a traditional offset printer in Melbourne that runs tours for university and TAFE students, said it was sad to see the museum go but believes the best path forward is for printers to buy a few select items each and display them in their factories and offices. Taylor’d Press also features a number of vintage presses in its front office which give visitors a chance to see how printing was originally done.

“It’s pretty hard to keep a museum up and running and going and I think the best thing to happen is to do what is going on and let as many people know as possible and then everyone can grab some history and put it in the front of their factory,” Taylor told Sprinter.

A full catalogue of the items up for grabs is still being put together with the online sale scheduled to finish on November 26. A live sale will start at 10am on November 28 onsite at 266 Geelong Road, West Footscray.

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One thought on “Thousands of Melbourne Museum of Printing exhibits to go under hammer

  1. It has been a dream of mine, to have
    a National Printing Museum in
    Canberra, similar to the museum on
    printing, in the Smithsonian Museum
    in Washington DC. – USA.
    Such a museum needs the full support
    of the Industry Association, and major
    Printing/Packaging companies. People
    like VISY, Franklin Web and PMP, for a
    start (cannot remember their new fancy
    names) and Federal Government also.
    The Penrith Museum have done one
    outstanding job. The deserve more
    industry support.
    The Melbourne Collection, must not be
    broken up. It would be a sin.

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