- Associated Press - Sunday, November 20, 2016

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) - A group of Purdue University professors is bringing old-style printing techniques back to life and into their classrooms.

The Purdue Honors College and the College of Liberal Arts, along with faculty in the Purdue Libraries, recently teamed up to create a print laboratory in the newly built Honors College and Residences building.

The lab revolves around a newly refurbished mid-20th century Vandercook printing press that was once housed in the Patti & Rusty Rueff School of Visual and Performing Arts. So far, the lab contains the Vandercook and a small tabletop press, but faculty have big hopes for how it can grow and accommodate a wide range of disciplines.

“To give your students a hands-on experience of what it’s like to print really drives home the whole notion that a book or a newspaper or any sort of print is a piece of technology. It’s not just part of the natural world,” said Kristina Bross, associate dean for research in the Honors College and associate professor of English. “People had to know how to do this to change the world with print.”

Bross said she and a colleague in English were discussing their interest in the history of the book and had mulled over the idea of a print studio but had put the conversations on hold. Shortly afterward, she heard news that the visual and performing arts school was looking for a new home for a Vandercook printing press that a retiring faculty member had purchased a while ago. CLA didn’t have room for it but she knew the Honors College’s brand new facility did.

After movers managed to get the clunky, 6-foot by 3-foot machine into a spare space, the partnering colleges brought in letterpress expert Paul Moxon from Mobile, Alabama to refurbish it and provide training.

The first piece of paper it printed on Oct. 18 read, “PURDUE PRINTS AGAIN.”

Since then, several people across the university, from math to biology, have expressed interest in taking part in the project and using the press to complement their lesson plans.

“I didn’t think we’d have this many people involved,” Bross said.

Peter Moore, a postdoctoral teaching fellow in the Honors College, was quick to find use of the lab.

One of his classes next semester, titled “Gutenberg Galaxy,” will design and construct a working replica of a Gutenberg press - Johannes Gutenberg invented the first printing press in the 1400s - that will be added to the lab.

“We’re going to get a hands-on approach to thinking about print and its impact on culture,” Moore said.

Moore’s ties to print stem back to his father, who worked six days a week in a printing press. His father will come from Nashville, Tennessee, to be a guest lecturer and teach students about the building process and the print industry, he said.

“This is not ‘Intro to Boring Class 101.’ This is like, ‘OK, well, this might not fit totally in my major, I don’t know what skills this is going to provide me with for job x, y or z, but it looks cool,’” Moore said. “And I don’t think that that’s an awful way to get an education.”

Moore and Bross anticipate that the lab, which will also someday include a 3D printer, will be used by people across Purdue and the outside community. From band posters to playbills to wedding invitations, the possibilities are endless.

“That’s what you start to think about with print,” Moore said. “It’s such a great thing because it shoots into so many disciplines.”

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Source: Lafayette Journal and Courier, http://on.jconline.com/2fS3VNw

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Information from: Journal and Courier, http://www.jconline.com

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