The Bodleian Library's printing presses are a teaching and experimental resource for scholars working with sources from the hand-press period (c.1450-c.1830). In the last two years the Bodleian has made this equipment more accessible to researchers to engage the public with their research. A working hand-operated printing press was installed in the public foyer of the Weston Library while the Bodleian's letterpress was moved to the Old Library for schools and public workshops.
Building Capacity for Public Engagement with Research
The Bodleian has successfully integrated the use of this equipment for public engagement with research and with exhibition displays curated by researchers. An expert printer and a team of volunteers teach printing to researchers, students, and members of the public.
The challenge of this skilled craft activity is a leveller in the relationship between researchers and the public, enabling the public to join academics in a shared creative effort. Equipment from the workshop has been placed on short-term loan to support other research-related events around the Univeristy and beyond.
The craft activity of printing provides researchers with a focal point for explaining their research topics in a non-academic setting.
For example, Adam Smyth, Professor of English literature, joined participants from 12 countries, Oxford schools, undergraduates, staff and Alumni in a project that aimed to print all of Shakespeare's sonnets for the Bodleian in 2016.
Outcomes and Impacts
Since August 2015 over a dozen academics and scholars have used the printing workshop for research and engagement and over 2,000 members of the public have engaged with the printing presses.
Training in the workshop has enabled both senior researchers and students to enhance their public engagement skills. Visits to the printing workshop by school groups have helped the Bodleian Libraries to make the case for recruiting an Education Officer, funded for three years. Following a printing workshop of Luther's 95 theses, Henrike Lahnemann, Professor of Medieval German Studies has gained external funding to further support printing workshops to engage the public with academic research on Luther and the Reformation.
Funded by: Private donations, University funds, ticket sales and project outreach funds