Co-curator Jenny Westdal mounts a display for the Jefferson Museum of Art & History’s new exhibit, “Printed Word in Port Townsend: Literary Presses of the 1970s and ’80s.”

Co-curator Jenny Westdal mounts a display for the Jefferson Museum of Art & History’s new exhibit, “Printed Word in Port Townsend: Literary Presses of the 1970s and ’80s.”

Port Townsend museum debuts new literary exhibit

The Jefferson Museum of Art & History will host an opening reception tonight for “Printed Word in Port Townsend: Literary Presses of the 1970s and ’80s.”

PORT TOWNSEND — The Jefferson Museum of Art & History at 5 tonight will host an opening reception for the exhibit “Printed Word in Port Townsend: Literary Presses of the 1970s and ’80s.”

Following this evening’s opening reception, the exhibit can be viewed during regular business hours. The museum is open daily from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Admission to the museum at 540 Water St. is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and $1 for children.

The exhibit focuses on the explosion of literary activity that occurred in Port Townsend during those years and is aimed at preserving some of these stories, according to a news release. It presents a selection of publications by seven of the presses that were active in the 1970s and ’80s in Port Townsend.

They range from the Copper Canyon Press and Graywolf Press — now in Minneapolis — to the Empty Bowl, which focused on environmental issues with a bit of Buddhist influence.

Also represented are works from Dragons Gate Press and Rusty North’s Sagittarius Press.

A catalog of the exhibit will be available at the museum gift shop and on Amazon, according to the release.

Though the books on display are beautiful and contain wonderful writing, they don’t tell the whole story of the time when they were made, said Jenny Westdal, author of the catalog and co-curator of the exhibit with Becky Schurmann, Jefferson County Historical Society collection curator.

“So much was happening then that I felt the only way to tell some of the background stories was to write a catalog,” Westdal said.

“When I arrived in Port Townsend in 1981, poetry was everywhere. … I wanted to preserve the stories I’d seen and heard of young, passionate people who were very content to live in poverty as long as they could write and publish poems.”

Some of the poetry was handprinted on antique letterpresses, creating another form of art in the process. Other arts and crafts went into creating the books such as hand binding, handmade paper, prints and drawings, and award-winning book design, according to the release.

Technological advancements in publishing have made it possible for the museum to create professional quality catalogs of their exhibits, something not possible in the recent past.

This is the first time the museum has created a book form catalog for an exhibit rather than simple pamphlets, according to the release.

“We used to do the [pamphlets] before, and now we can do nicer, higher-quality publications with more information because of desktop publishing,” said Marsha Moratti, Jefferson County Historical Society archivist.

“There’s always so much information that you learn when you’re doing the research for an exhibit that it’s frustrating because you can’t put it on the wall. Doing catalogs is just formatting it and putting it in one place instead of having it go in a file somewhere where it’s never seen again.”

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