The community of Uxbridge has supported thriving newspapers since 1869 – just two years after Canadian confederation. Their survival is really remarkable, even more so when you consider the struggles endured by so many papers in the past decade. As surviving newspapers keep up with rapidly changing technology, it’s easy for past print methods to be swept aside – but not at the Uxbridge Historical Center
The Uxbridge Historical Center is a beautiful open air museum, keeping the rich history of its Central Counties forbearers alive and thriving. Consisting of 8 heritage buildings and two replicas – including an 1870s clapboard church, a school house, and vintage farming implements, you could easily spend a day examining all the nooks and crannies of the collection. An attractive destination for anyone with a keen eye for architecture and preservation, what impressed me the most about my visit to the Historical Center was its unassuming print room.
Containing thousands of old print blocks and several fine examples of old printing presses and associated machinery, the print room is both a time capsule and workroom, tiny pieces of sculpture scattered against cold metal, paying homage to the craft of journalism and spinning a eulogy to a dying art.
While the print room’s most popular offering is the periodic change to watch the printing presses in action, what I loved best was the opportunity to examine the details on the smallest and slimmest of the printing blocks. The razor thin, engraved edging blocks use to create the decorative bands around fancy printed advertisements were carved with the discerning eye of a silversmith, with the daintiest swirls and designs melting into the unyielding metal. Again and again, with each new piece I examined, one word came to my mind: painstaking.
The Uxbridge Historic Center print room takes you back to a time before tabloids or social media or automation and serves as a striking symbol of the power of words. How powerful and exacting a piece must have been to be deemed worthy of the laborious efforts of the printing press staff. Not a word was wasted, no frivolous gossip columns in site. The newspapers flying off the presses were the real deal, linking a community together and to the world.
Every year, the Uxbridge Historical Center hosts a Heritage Day and the entire complex really comes to life, with dozens of special displays and interactive experiences. It’s a great option for families, as this is one museum where plenty artifacts can be touched, there’s not need to keep quiet, there’s such a wide variety of displays that no one will get bored – and there are wide open fields to play and burn off some excess energy. But no matter when you visit the Uxbridge Historical Center, I urge you to save the print room for last. Take the time to look past the chunky machinery and ask to see the tiniest of all the printing blocks. Once you hold a part of printing history in your hand, you too will be ‘spreading the news’ about this inspiring, family friendly destination.
Vanessa Chiasson is an Ottawa based travel writer. Her blog, TurnipseedTravel.com, focuses on getting great value – where to save, when to splurge, and how to make every moment count.