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WASHINGTON, D.C. – A Gutenberg-style printing press designed by Bucknell University engineering students made its debut in the nation’s capital Wednesday.
The working hand-press anchors a corner of the renowned Folger Shakespeare Library’s cavernous exhibit hall, located two blocks from the U.S. Capitol Building, and is part of the just opened exhibition, “Breaking News: Renaissance Journalism and the Birth of the Newspaper,” that runs until Jan. 31, 2009.
Gail Kern Paster, director of the library, told about 150 invited guests attending a reception that the “Bucknell press is a wonderful new addition to the Folger.”
Senior class project
The printing press is an exact replica of a design and working machine that was built as a senior class project in 2000-01 by Shannon Cooney, Patrick Kunze and Aaron Tajima, mechanical engineering majors from the Class of 2001. That original machine has spent the better part of the last seven years in Bertrand Library where it serves as a hands-on teaching aid.
Kunze was among those attending the Wednesday evening exhibition opening. “It looks great,” Kunze told George Waltman, the director of Bucknell’s Project Development Laboratory who built the new press over the summer after the University received a commission from the Folger. “Really good.”
The journey from the Bucknell campus to the Folger all started when the new exhibition was being planned more than a year ago and the Folger wanted a hand-press to feature and to use in its education programs when it ended.
Discovered on web page
Steven Galbraith, curator of books at the Folger, discovered the press on a Bucknell web page and among those he contacted was Tom Rich, professor of mechanical engineering and the Robert L. Rooke Chair in the Historical and Social Context of Engineering.
“It has exceeded our expectations. We’re all just incredibly pleased,” said Galbraith after greeting both Waltman and Rich at the reception.
Kunze, sporting a blue and orange tie and posing for photographs with the new press, was both pleased to see his former professor Rich and lab director Waltman and was amazed that a project he had worked on as a student was taking on a new life.
“We had a budget of $500,” he recalled.
Kunze, who now lives in Arlington, Va., has traded e-mails with fellow senior project engineers Cooney and Tajima and has renewed contact with a number of classmates since publicity about the printing press started in July. The press has received web, print and TV attention.
The printing press carries a brass plaque prominently noting those involved and an additional information display summarizes the development of the Bucknell press.
Kunze, too, is no stranger at the Folger. The senior associate at GHT Limited, an engineering design firm based in Virginia, was the lead mechanical engineer and project manager for recent renovation work in the Folger’s conservation department.
“That included new temperature and humidity control systems that are crucial to the conservation and restoration of books, transcripts and artwork,” he said. “It’s nice being back. This time I used the front door.”
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