Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Typing in the museum. Let them free!

Walking into the Charleville museum I was confronted by what I thought was an odd collection of typewriters. There was almost no information on each item, and they seemed to be just thrown into place as though they were set up for some ad-hoc type-in for really, really thin people that didn't need elbow room. 

However the ribbons were all dry, and the machines were in such an awful state that I almost felt compelled to grab my tool kit out of the back of Ruby, and start getting these machines back into some kind of working condition. Although, I also wished I could free them from their slumber, and get them back into use. 

The museum itself was a miasma of disorganisation. The displays seemed to be organised, no, mostly thrown together with similar birds of a feather - as though it were more of an antique shop that was being run by some shuffling - half blind retiree. 

But it's not a shop. It's a museum run by a shuffling - half blind retiree, along with a group of community volunteers.

One of those volunteers was present at the time, and he seemed to be just walking around in his high-vis shirt keeping an eye on me while I poked and prodded my way through the unprotected displays that were defended by the occasional 'do not touch' sign. He had a shifter-wrench in his hand, and looked very serious. 

Some items were kept safely in cabinets, but for a large part most of the pieces were just strewn about on tables or thrown into deteriorating cupboards. 

Yeah.... Don't let the lawn-mowers get in the way of your telephones.... 

So.... By now you're thinking - 4 crappy broken down typewriters and a computery-typerwritery thing? Is that all? Well.... no! Read on my friends, read on. 

I didn't dare peel back the delicate priceless foam, while a guy holding a shifter stood near by. 

Grammar correcting typewriter you say? THAT'S what I need!

Yes, everything was piled onto everything else, and it was difficult to see some of the most interesting items. I eventually went and asked the guy that was running the place if he minded if I moved bits and pieces here and there so I could have a look at some items. 

He mostly obliged, but asked me not to touch certain things. One of the odd things were the 'Delicate wax cylinders' (old recordings). 

When I informed him that I actually had some of my own and I was unlikely to touch them anyway, he just looked at me nervously. However he offered to play one for me if I'd so like. 

I declined, and continued to sticky-beak my way through the dozen rooms - including a bedroom with some amazing 1920's women's fashion on a few mannequins, and a period piece bed. The dining room (this building was the original bank, and held the council chambers) was crammed but spectacular, while the stables (filled with old carts) and garage were fascinating. Especially the rail - ambulance. 

(I.O.U. 1 Rail Ambulance photo
When I find where I put it)

 I persevered with digging through the displays, and I have to say it was very rewarding. In the process of doing so I found a couple of very significant typewriters - in some unexpected corners of the museum.

Firstly, I have to refer to the Typosphere on what this is:

Exhibit A: Honestly, I have no idea.... But it looks cool! 

At this point it may be courteous for me to tell you all about the second typewriter I found buried in an odd corner, but I'm sorry to break it to you, you'll have to wait for my next post. While the machine itself isn't really that unusual, it is the original user that makes the machine so interesting. It's the sort of thing that would be right up Rob Messenger's ally. 

So I continued to fossick and dig through most of the rooms, finding all kinds of wonderful and weird items. I thought I had explored through almost every room, when I discovered yet another room of disorganised artefacts. I had previously avoided this room, because from the doorway it appeared to be just filled with old saws and degraded farm material. 

Boy, was I wrong.... 

Crammed into the furthest corner of the main building, was a collection of old typers that had been crammed onto a desk, and shoved into a tiny booth that was surrounded by walls made from wool bale mesh.... Because that's how this museum rolls. 

This arehad a pretty specific 'do not touch' sign, with the 'DO NOT' written in red. So, while I was in the room that was too far for the shuffling blind man to walk to, and mr Spanner-fixer in the high-vis shirt had disappeared, I naturally felt that this was an appropriate time to stick my fingers onto as many keys and levers as I could. 

After all, you don't find a linotype setup every day.... 

And can I just say... it is the first upstrike typewriter I have ever typed on. 

So... Well yes... I'll just shut up for a moment and shove some more photos onto this page. 

I want one.... 

Meh... My remington 16 looks cooler.

...... You get the picture. 

OH! Here's the rail Ambulance. 

Anyway, I've got quite a lot of photos from this museum. However I'm not going to turn this blog into 'Uncle Arthur's Slideshow night'. I'm saving a few for the next post naturally, but for now I think I've bored you enough for the time being - with the photos that were taking from my iPhone. And if Adowa  swings by, I even have a shot of some interesting antique sewing machines. 

So I hope you enjoyed this typewriter lover's casual trip around the Charleville museum... 

Oh, and here's a quick snap of was the museum looked like from outside. 

Coming up: The typewriter of the outback..... 


  1. Those museums are a saddening thing. So many interesting things, sitting there without explanation or dusting. On holiday, I visited the Nazi seaside resort Prora, a 4.5 km long resort, designed to "hold" 20'000 holiday makers. In one of the museums, there seems to be a display of 120 typewriters, but according to reviews and pictures, the museum is love- and lifeless. Pity!
    I don't really understand what the scurille behemoth does, but the keys make me think "Torpedo!".

    1. Ha ha ha ha.... I like the way you think. I have an idea as to what it was for, but I'd never seen one before.

      I understand what you mean about the shambolic museums. I think part of the problem with this place would be as a result of a lack of storage. They've kept a lot of rubbish, but as you know... one man's trash is another man's treasure, so Id' dare say without someone to get some focus in the place, they're just keeping everything that swings by. The floor had so stacked up with stuff that had spilled from the tables, that I often tripped over pieces.

      But I loved it though, even if it was a complete shambles.

  2. Well, that museum sure could use a professional curator .... then again, it wouldn't be nearly as much fun if it were neat and well-organized, would it? This was an entertaining glimpse and I'm curious to find out about the mystery typewriter.

    I think that behemoth is some sort of accounting machine, possibly a Taylorix.

    1. Ah! That could be right!

      Taking into consideration where this machine was located, by my reckoning, this machine was set up to do an ongoing ledger of stock transactions at either a cattle yard, or wool shed.

      Most likely cattle yard, as Charleville is trading hub of several cattle stations in the area. I could see this being used to track a ledger during the frequent cattle auctions and sales.

    2. But you're right, a professional curator could make this exhibit amazing, but it would lose a fair chunk of its soul. I'm quite a lover of clutter as it was, and I found myself in something of an antique candy-store.

  3. They've got all kinds of neat things in the museum. I agree with Richard. Then maybe they could take a lesson from Robert's exhibition on the typewriters. If the displays had some organization to them as well as information on the display a museum visit would be a much more enjoyable experience.

    1. For sure. Finding typewriters in 4 different locations showed a real lack of organization and consideration. The plastic Remington that was in appalling condition along the cheap and nasty Brother really indicated that no one has ever really thought about what they have on display. There was no information on any of these typewriters - (with one exception that I'll talk about soon) other than a couple of cards detailing who donated the typewriter.

    2. You could always type up some research for them and offer it to them. A foot in the door that might loosen 'em up enough to let you volunteer a little cleaning and organizing. You might even get a title like "Curator of Typewriters" for their museum :D

    3. You know, that's not a bad idea...

  4. Nice pictures! And I did swing by, so you better put up those shots of sewing machines you promised :P

    1. I will... Next post (after the one I posted today) I'll put them up!