Right on type-WRITE
By: Katei Cranford
The click of typewriter keys mingled with the clink of cocktail glasses on Friday at the Greensboro Historical Museum’s preview party for the upcoming type-WRITE installation opening May 19.
The installation features famous typewriters from the Soboroff Typewriter Collection in the museum’s “Connection Point,” a newly-dedicated space for interactive exhibits.
Affectionately called “Martha’s Space,” what was once the gift-shop is now an area where people “connect to objects, history and each other.” This particular exhibit encourages visitors to play with typewriters so that “adults young and old experience a history museum in new ways.”
The goal is a fun, interactive environment. “The museum gears a lot toward children, but we’re hoping to build a little something for adults and keeping things fun for all ages. Especially here tonight,” museum director Carol Hart said of the cocktail party kickoff complete with hor d’oeuvres, chocolate cigars, and a jazzy three-piece playing from the open second-floor landing to guests in the lobby below.
Behind glass, typewriters from Maya Angelou, Ernest Hemingway, John Lennon, Truman Capote, and even Tom Hanks line the walls of the freshly renovated space.
The most exciting aspect involves the ability to play and interact with a variety of vintage typewriters from the turn of the century through the final heydays of the machine in the 1970s. It’s all about the “sounds and sensations.”
At the party, curator Robert Harris shared stories of how the Remington company transitioned metalworks from firearms to typewriters after the civil war; and boasted the ways typewriters helped advance Women’s Rights by creating an industry with career opportunities never before afforded to women.
Greensborian items on display include a World Typewriter 2, “the iPad of the 1890s,” originally purchased by George S. Sergeant for his iron foundry on East Washington.
The 1960 “Musicwriter” used by celebrated Grimsley band director Herbert Hazelman is a stunning local example
Created exclusively for drafting music works, the specialized machine cost $500 when it was purchased by the school at Hazelman’s behest for his composer residency program, hosted at Grimsley from 1960-1962.
Visitors enjoyed the thud from the keys of a 1920s vintage Royal. The glide of a 1970s IBM Selectric II thrilled a few former typists, summoning memories of days in the secretarial pool.
“I still remember the way we’d fight over who’d get to use the Selectric,” mused one attendee. The IBM Selectric I (a favorite of Hunter S. Thompson) introduced a typeball mechanism which allowed the user a remarkably fluid typing experience. The Selectric II added correction features and memory storage, indicative of the new era of word-processing which IBM would help usher as offices swapped typewriters for computers through the 1980s.
To Steve Soboroff, the Los Angeles businessman who loaned the collection, “what the typewriter symbolizes now timelessness.”
Of these particular typewriters, it’s, “the idea that geniuses sat there and accomplished what they accomplished on these typewriters … it gives me chills.”
Feel the sensation for yourself when the installation opens May 19 to celebrate the Greensboro: Bound Literary Festival. Admission to the museum is free, type-WRITE will run through August 19.