Pressing local matters

18 May 2010

This is an old post, so may include broken links and/or out-of-date information

The fact that a former incarnation of Supercool HQ was a pen works and that it's located only about a 2-minute walk away, it seemed like madness to have never visited the Jewellery Quarter's pen museum. So, in an effort to explore nearby places, I went to have a quick look around.

Cosy it may be but the Pen Room is packed to the rafters with pen paraphernalia, there's typographic eye-candy a-plenty thanks to loads of glorious examples of old packaging and signage, and the enthusiastic volunteer staff are brimming with pen-related facts.

"Birmingham was the centre of the world pen trade for more than a century, employing thousands of people, pioneering craftsmanship, manufacturing processes and employment opportunities – especially for women."

Probably the best thing about the Pen Room is the interactivity – there's no touch-screen technology here but you can make your very own pen nib. You go through the whole process – from cutting the blank, to embossing the maker's mark and then pressing into shape – using the chunky, clunky, antique machinery; all under the careful supervision of one of the staff, of course. Then, you get to take it home with you! (The nib, not the staff member.)

The Pen Room is free (though donations are welcomed) and it's perfect to visit during a lunch-hour; you'll get a bit of history and a smattering of heritage, see some fantastic packaging design and make a tiny keepsake. I reckon it's well worth writing home about. (Sorry, I can never resist a bad pun.) Next on my to-go list: the award-winning Museum of the Jewellery Quarter.

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