by Linda Falkman, President of the Minnesota Newspaper Foundation
Our living-history Minnesota Newspaper Museum came alive each day of the Minnesota State Fair as we completed our first year in a new location.
Our new location in the 4-H annex proved to work very well, even better than the Minnesota Newspaper Foundation board members and volunteers had expected.
For 26 years, the newspaper museum was housed in its own little red brick building in Heritage Square. When the Minnesota State Fair completely renovated the Heritage Square area (renaming it the West End Market), the museum was forced to move out — lock, stock and barrel — across the entire fairgrounds.
The vast majority of visitors expressed to many volunteers that they indeed liked the new location even better than the old one. Even with a vast reduction in visitor space, our guests could see the 1930s letterpress equipment “up close and personal” and were closer to the volunteers who explained how the hot metal letterpress process worked.
The newspaper, the Maynard News, was composed and printed each of the 12 days of the fair, entirely using old-time linotypes, a Meihle printing press and a Mentges newspaper folder.
Thousands of children visiting with their parents marveled at how different this process was compared to the computerized world they live in today.
Snapped up by visitors were museum mementos such as dated bookmarks, memo pads with line drawings of the old equipment, souvenir newspapers and newspaper hats.
The HATS! Children . . . . and many adults . . . would wait in line for volunteers to fold a newspaper hat from that day’s edition, just like the printers of old folded their hats. Newspaper hats were seen all over the fairgrounds, proof that thousands of people visited our little museum and left with a better understanding of how newspapers used to be produced.
If they visited with the “Editor of the Day,” our guests were able to talk about how newspapers have played a critical role in their lives and in their communities.
My thanks go to the tireless volunteers who spent hundreds of hours painting the walls, preparing a new layout for the bulky equipment, arranging for all the electrical needs, getting the equipment humming along after a jostling move across the fairgrounds, and then greeting the visitors each day (sometimes in sweltering heat), smiling and talking to close to 20,000 visitors about an era they dearly loved.
Just to name two of the “stars,” without whom we wouldn’t have had a “show” this year, I offer my sincere thanks to Mark Digre, our project manager who worked at the museum planning and preparing several days a week throughout the whole summer. Likewise, Carlton DeWitt, of DeWitt Media in Glenwood City, Wisconsin, who set most of the type and was highlighted in a news piece when a KSTP news team showed up one afternoon to feature the operations of the Minnesota Newspaper Museum.
Now the board of directors of the Minnesota Newspaper Foundation has the task of planning the future of the museum, taking the opportunity to enhance the message of how our newspapers in Minnesota have contributed to our history and to our democracy.
We welcome your ideas and your thoughts.
— Linda Falkman
Some more scenes from the Museum – photos by Tim Hennagir (click to enlarge):