The South Australian mid-north town of Peterborough is well known as a railway hub – the place where three railway gauges came together opening up the railways in the region and adding greatly to the ability of local farmers to get crops to ports. But Peterborough has another claim to fame and last week Amanda got to visit the Print Shop Museum again, after first visitng it eight or nine years ago. Travelling with Karen we headed up via Burra to do some hands on work with the Peterborough History Group who manage the print shop site and collection. The print shop operated continuously for more than 100 years and along with the machinery, printing plates and type face sets are a huge collection of ‘job dockets’ – a pristine record of everything printed for many decades dating from the 1920s. Records prior to that time were lost in a fire in the first part of the 20th century.
The Peterborough History Group has been working hard for a long time now to get ready to tackle the enormous task ahead – on the advice of a preservation study by Artlab they are commencing rehousing all the job dockets, storing the envelopes, which contain provenance information, separately from the contents, and it is this task that we went to help with. Over the last few years the History Group has sorted the dockets by year and identified up to an extraordinary 8,000 jobs per year (do the maths – that’s a lot of items over six plus decades!) Amazingly the History Group is not phased by this but are determined to eventually rehouse them all. Over two days we worked on establishing a process for tackling the collection, numbering system, and the best quality but affordable solutions for storage. In a production line style solution items are being catalogued, scanned, rehoused and entered onto the MOSAiC database, doing all the tasks at once to minimise handling of items while trying to maximise efficiency. When done the collection will form an extraordinary research resource – a complete look through print into the history of the growth, decline, business and social goings on in a town and region so important to South Australian history.
You might think this project is enough for any group, but Peterborough History group also run an active research centre, adjacent to the print shop museum, are working towards an interpretation space at the rear of the print shop, getting some of the machinery back to working order (and learning how to use it for special print jobs), and maintaining other collections of local history (archives and objects), much of which is displayed in the former YMCA building.