Final open house of the Printing Room Museum on August 22, 2019.
BY VERONICA STIENBURG, ARCHIVIST
The Printing Room Museum at Providence Manor closed this fall. The Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul ran a print shop from 1897 until 1989. Over the course of its history, the printing room produced two magazines, congregational material and commercial work such as dental charts, business cards, invitations, etc. When the Printing office was closed in 1989 everything was left – including all the type, tools, ink tubs and presses – forming a sort of time-capsule. It opened as a museum in 1999 and tours were available by appointment.
The Printing Room is located in the basement of the Chapel at Providence Manor in downtown Kingston. Providence Manor is currently a long-term care home run by Providence Care and is in the process of planning a brand new building in Providence Village on the Providence Motherhouse grounds. When Providence Manor moves, the museum would be forced to close and new homes found for the equipment at that time.
This year the opportunity arose for the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul to donate the equipment, tools and furniture to Carleton University in Ottawa. Carleton University Library and the Department of English Language and Literature are collaborating to establish a Book Arts Laboratory. It will be an experiential learning lab that will have exhibition space, active printing space and teaching space. The Lab will be located in the Carleton Library. This is the perfect opportunity for the congregation to pass on their printing legacy, where the craft of printing will be actively taught to students, and the Sisters’ printing history will be preserved through Carleton’s use of the equipment and tools, in exhibitions and in their archives, as well as in our own archives.
Archivist Veronica Stienburg and Sister Gayle Desarmia at the Printing Room Museum.
We had an Open House on Thursday, August 22, to give the public one last chance to see the museum. 107 people visited the Printing Room that evening. What a great turnout! We heard some great stories from people who had connections to the Sisters and even a few to the Printing Room itself. We advertised the event in the parish bulletins, among other places and we had visitors from across the Archdiocese. Archivist Veronica Stienburg, Council Liaison, Sr. Gayle Desarmia, and Librarian Anna Soper staffed the event. Ron Kelly, a friend of the Foundation House Sisters, volunteered to explain how the linotype and the presses worked. The event was a great success!
On October 21st, the majority of the equipment was removed from the Printing Room to be transported to Carleton University. One of the heaviest items in the Printing Room was an imposing stone, a large piece of granite, just over five feet long, 3 feet wide and 6 inches thick. It provided a level plane when typeset was assembled and tapped flat against it before being put through the presses. Five movers had quite a difficult time moving this approximately 2000 lb. slab of granite off the wooden cupboard it sat on, and onto a dolly. One man pulled, while four men pushed the heavily laden dolly up a steep ramp that they had placed over the stairs, to get it out of the Printing Room, and onto the truck. The movers really had their work cut out for them!
While it is sad to see the Printing Room dismantled, we are pleased to see the majority of the equipment go to Carleton University where the craft of printing will be actively taught to students and the Sisters’ printing history will be preserved through Carleton’s use of the equipment and tools, in exhibitions and their archives.