Minnesota Newspaper Museum at State Fair on the move

  • Article by: JIM ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 25, 2013 - 7:56 PM

After a 26-year run in Heritage Square, the vintage equipment is moving and awaiting a new home as part of a renovation plan.

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Roger Rafferty demonstrated old-style printing techniques during the State Fair this year.

Photo: Jim Anderson, Star Tribune

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For the past 26 years, the Minnesota Newspaper Museum at the State Fair was one of the few places in the state where the metallic clacketa-clacketa-clacketa of a Linotype machine, setting type for the latest edition the Maynard News, could be heard.

The staccato melody that clanked at the west end of Heritage Square will be doing so at a new location. The volunteers who run the museum on Wednesday began hauling the two heavy Linotype machines, printing presses and other equipment to the opposite side of the fairgrounds for storage in the 4-H Building between Cosgrove Street and Snelling Avenue.

The museum’s brick building, designed to mimic a 1930s-era small-town newspaper office, will soon be demolished along with the rest of the Heritage Square structures that date from the mid-1960s. It’s part of a major renovation that will include the square’s relocation and the creation of a major new transit hub in the northwestern corner of the fairgrounds.

Roger Rafferty, the museum’s longtime supervisor and one of many volunteers with the Minnesota Newspaper Foundation, which operates the museum, said the State Fair Board told them the museum would need to leave Heritage Square by Sept. 30 and later extended that deadline to Oct. 15. “We told them we would dearly love to stay at the State Fair,” Rafferty said.

And it looks as if that is going to happen. For now, the museum has been given space in the 4-H Building, where the aging machinery can be safely stored for the winter, he said.

It’s not clear yet where the museum’s permanent home will be.

Plans are still being finalized for the new Heritage Square and the other longtime vendors and exhibits affected by the change, said Brienna Schuette, spokeswoman for the fair. Demolition at the site is tentatively set for mid-October.

Like the other vendors and exhibitors in Heritage Square, Rafferty said museum volunteers are scrambling to adjust, but he said fair officials have been accommodating.

“It looks to me like we would have to put about $40,000 into it to make it an appropriate spot,” he said, a substantial amount for a nonprofit that relies on donations.

About 40,000 to 60,000 people come through the museum at the fair each year, he said, and it costs about $20,000 to operate. Most of the museum’s equipment came from the newspaper in Maynard, in western Minnesota. The living museum is aimed at giving people a glimpse of how the old hot-metal newspaper process — which served papers for more than a century — worked.

Rafferty comes to the fair from his home in Northome, Minn., southwest of International Falls, to volunteer at the museum each year. He began working as a Linotype machinist at the Star Tribune in 1971. By the time he retired in 2000, the paper had transitioned to electronic typesetting.

His reward is sharing that history, which looks like it will be continuing at the State Fair.

“When the young people come through here, the children come through here, they’re just mesmerized by what we do,” he said. “I could tell you some stories.”

Jim Anderson • 651-925-5039 Twitter: @StribJAnderson

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