Minister Madigan Visits the National Print Museum
The Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan TD, today (Tuesday 11th September) visited the National Print Museum.
The Museum promotes a greater understanding of the historical significance and the contemporary relevance of printing in Ireland by exploring its heritage, craft and technology. It was founded by members of the print industry and in 1996 it officially opened in the Office of Public Works’ Garrison Chapel in Beggars Bush Barracks, Dublin 4. The Museum is chiefly funded by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and the Education and Training Boards.
It is a unique museum – the only one of its kind in Ireland. The collection is made up largely of letterpress printing equipment. Letterpress is a form of relief printing, which was invented by Johannes Gutenberg in 1439. The invention is one of the greatest known to mankind. It was the chief manner of printing which prevailed for over 500 years before becoming obsolete, in the commercial sense, in the mid-twentieth century.
The main collection is not behind glass or rope but is instead an example of a working collection. The collection consists of fully-operational letterpress printing equipment, displayed and organised like a traditional 1960s print-shop. The panel of retired printers and compositors, who founded the Museum, continue to play a vital role in preserving the collection and the craft. A major challenge is preserving their knowledge and skills, and passing these on to future generations.
Under the Local and Regional Museums Scheme 2018, the Department sponsors a project filming the machines in operation and making these accessible to visitors online and onsite. Through Creative Ireland, the Museum has just been awarded funding to realise a major project entitled Making our Impression. This important training project facilitates the transfer of skills from one generation to the next, and aims to keep the craft of letterpress alive. The Museum is also working on a European Project Creative Makers, which innovates letterpress with new technologies and results in the creation of a fablab at the Museum.
The temporary exhibitions at the Museum explore the impact of print and the powerful role it played in shaping our histories. Printed artefacts capture the spirit of the age in which they were created. Print forms an intrinsic part of our lives, and the development, prosperity, and rich heritage of Irish printing form an important part of our national story of craft and industry.
Commenting on the Museum’s mission to promote a greater understanding of the historical significance of printing in Ireland, Minister Madigan said:
“The 19th century American abolitionist, Wendell Phillips said ‘What gunpowder did for war the printing press has done for the mind.’ The explosion of learning and creativity manifested not only in the printed word, but in posters, iconography and the evolution of printed graphics has moulded out conscious and subconscious lives at a very deep level and the Print Museum celebrates this influence is a very unique and participatory way.”
During her visit, the Minister viewed the current exhibition Print, Protest, and The Polls: The Irish women’s suffrage campaign and the power of print media, 1908 – 1918. This exhibition commemorates the centenary of the first female vote in Ireland through exploration of the use of print media by the Irish suffragists, and their opponents, in their methods of promotion and protest. The exhibition aims to shine a light on a neglected period in Irish women’s history, while simultaneously exploring the powerful relationship between the contemporary political protest and the developing print media.
Exhibition content includes print ephemera, photographs, and newspaper publications which illustrate the influence and effect of protest through print in a period of early media. It demonstrates the role which the process of print played in the Irish fight for women’s rights to vote, and features print ephemera which have never before been exhibited publicly. The exhibition is curated by Donna Gilligan, a material culture historian who specialises in the research of the objects and images of the Irish suffrage campaign. The material is on loan from the National Library of Ireland and private lenders. Admission is to the exhibition is free of charge and is supported by Dublin City Council, Spera Brand Management, Smurfit Kappa Ireland, Vermillion and Colorman.
The Museum is happy to announce an extension of this exhibition to mid- November, while on Friday 14 September, the Museum is holding a one-day seminar entitled Protest through Print: Women’s suffrage and print media. This seminar explores the use of print media by Irish suffragists and their opponents in their methods of promotion. The event is sponsored by European Year of Cultural Heritage. Again admission will be free of charge but booking is essential.
Replica Series: Together with the National Library of Ireland, the Museum has reproduced this important suffrage poster from 1918. The poster hails from the NLI’s collection and will be printed letterpress on the Museum’s Vandercook press by graphic artist Mary Plunkett. The commemorative replica is made up of a limited edition of 500 posters that are available in store and online.
Response Project: The Museum announces an exciting project with three leading figures in letterpress in Ireland. Dave Darcy of One Strong Arm, Mary Plunkett of The Belgrave Private Press, and Jamie Murphy of The Salvage Press have been invited to individually respond to the upcoming exhibition theme exploring its contemporary relevance. Each print is of a limited edition of just 100 – commemorating 100 years of women’s right to vote and are on sale in store and online.