Student Perspective: Creating an Archival Stamp Exhibit

Sherwood School of Music Printmaking Stamps

Curator’s Notes:

Columbia College Archives & Digital Collections recently acquired material relating to the  history of the Sherwood Community Music School that included stamps with images of famous composers such as Franz Schubert, various instruments, and musical notations that had been used in catalogs and other publications.

Unlike ordinary stamps, these stamps are made of metal and contain very fine detail. Rather than blotting the stamps on an ink pad and stamping them, they require a more sensitive technique in order to see all the stamps had to offer.


  • The first step involves applying ink evenly onto a smooth, nonporous surface—we chose Plexiglas—with a putty knife
  • After the ink is evenly applied, a printmaking tool called a brayer (akin to a small rubber paint roller) is rolled into the ink, coating its surface
  • The ink is then transferred lightly from the brayer to the stamp. Too much ink and the print loses the fine details, too little and not all of the image will appear
  • Rather than just pushing the inked stamp directly down onto the paper the stamp itself is placed on the table, ink facing upwards
  • The paper is then laid gently on top of the stamp and a spoon is used to softly apply pressure
  • Once sufficiently worked over with the spoon, the paper is peeled back from the stamp
  • The stamp’s mirror image is now marked on the paper and the process is complete.

The prints are left to dry and the cleanup begins. Baby oil cleans ink up nicely from all of the surfaces—the Plexiglas, brayer, putty knife and the stamps themselves.

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