The Science Museum Group has completed a major project to relocate the Monotype Collection, which illustrates the mechanical typesetting method that dominated the world in the 20th century.
The Monotype Collection contains more than 2 million individual items, including a comprehensive archive, around 100 machines, patterns and matrices, and over 4000 drawers of punches of each typeface.
The collection is now being cared for and conserved at the Science Museum Group’s (SMG) National Collections Centre, part of the Science and Innovation Park near Swindon.
Prior to the move from the Type Archive in Stockwell, London, experts painstakingly documented and photographed the intricate type faces and production process of Monotype, creating more than 5,800 records, including new photographs and insights, that have been published online, providing digital access to this important collection for the first time.
The knowledge of the Type Archive's experienced volunteers was captured through oral history interviews and filming of the unique skills of manufacturing Monotype punches and matrices. We will be sharing these specially commissioned films in the future alongside new online stories about Monotype.
Sir Ian Blatchford, Director and Chief Executive of the Science Museum Group said: ‘What better use of digital techniques could there be than capturing and celebrating the transformative role that mechanical engineering and type design played in mass communication in the 20th century and its development over the previous 500 years?’
SMG is also rehousing the Stephenson Blake collection, the archive and plant of the UK’s last commercial type foundry, on behalf of the V&A while options are explored for a long-term home for that collection.
The Monotype Collection had been on long-term loan to the Type Archive in Stockwell, London, but in June 2022 the Type Archive announced it would relinquish its premises. All objects in the Monotype Collection, together with the Stephenson Blake Collection, were carefully packed and transported to the National Collections Centre thanks to financial support from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
SMG is supporting the work of Sheffield Museums Trust, which is currently exploring the possibility of returning the Stephenson Blake Collection to Sheffield.