I never know what to do about not-so-great attractions.
Earlier this year in Houston, Texas, Ruth and I visited the Museum of Printing History at 1324 West Clay. We only knew about it because an AAA Tour Book mentioned its rare books, antique printing equipment, etc. It was free so we decided to give it some time. The man behind the entrance desk seemed surprised to see us. At the end of a lonely, mostly self-guided tour, I wrote in my travel log, “As ancient as its subject”. As I watched what seemed like an endless film that the staff thought we should see, I was wondering whether I should give it 2 Compasses if I decided to write about it at all. I put that off until now for 2 reasons.
This museum was founded in 1979, when we read words on paper instead of screens, by 4 printers who wanted their collections preserved. It opened in 1982 in a nondescript building in a residential neighborhood, which is not unusual in this city with no zoning laws. What Ruth & I saw as we went from room to room looking for something worthwhile were yellowing newspapers, an engraving display, a 1959 Xerox machine, empty display cases, a copy of a Gutenberg Era press, etc. The displays were like that ancient typewriter above, obsolete and uninteresting. At one point a man on the staff tried to stir some interest in its operation by demonstrating a linotype machine to us. He was extremely sincere, but zero interest was stirred.
There were unused rooms for temporary exhibits. The main one, Elvira Sarmiento: Alludere Posada, had apparently closed about 6 weeks previously. A huge poster was still up.
About the only object I really paid attention to was a displayed one-sixth-dollar bill that I didn’t know about. With no authority to tax and the Revolutionary War to fund, the Continental Congress printed currency. British counterfeiters were delighted to devalue it and give rise to the phrase “not worth a Continental”.
I checked this museum’s website over several months and delayed a blog. But then…one item gave me a bit of hope and a second provided a need to warn. The Museum of Printing History has changed its name to The Printing Museum and announced “a fresh new look”. It will shift it focus to reflect “…the changing nature of printing in the 21st Century”. Maybe this will, over time, turn this endeavor into a 5 Compass attraction, but I have my doubts. In the meantime, if you want to see if changes are improving this museum, it will cost you $8 as of March 3, 2015, to find out.