Heritage hot spots: History, nature, art, environment

Sat, Feb 18, 2012, 00:00

National Print Museum

* What is it?It’s the only museum in the country to focus exclusively on the history of printing, particularly as it developed in Ireland. It has grown since it opened, in 1996: last year it was redesigned to accommodate extra material.

* Why visit?To see old hand presses and mechanical typesetting machines, such as those made by Linotype and Intertype – Rube Goldberg-style contraptions that cast lines of text from hot metal as compositors typed journalists’ stories on the machines’ keyboards. You can see other traditional printing techniques, too – the TV series The Tudors(made in Co Wicklow) has loaned a replica of Gutenberg’s revolutionary press – as well as more modern methods.

Among the museum’s other loans (it’s on display until 2016) is a copy of the 1916 Proclamation. These iconic sheets – the originals are slightly larger than the pages of this newspaper – were printed in secret at Liberty Hall.

The museum also has talks and workshops, for adults and children, on bookmaking, calligraphy, printmaking and papermaking.

Retired compositors and printers give demonstrations on typesetting machines throughout the year.

* Why now?A touring exhibition by Cork Printmakers, Ireland: Alphabet Series, opens next week. Twenty-six artists each began with a letter of the alphabet, then reworked them, in their own styles, to create specifically Irish forms. The organisers says they encouraged humour, confession, irony and controversy, among other things, and if the way the artists describe their work is anything to go by, the exhibition should be evocative, provocative and engaging. Previously shown at the Irish Arts Centre in New York, it continues until April 13th.

* How do I get there?The museum is in the old garrison chapel at Beggars Bush, a former barracks on Haddington Road in Dublin 4. It’s a 15-minute walk from Merrion Square and five minutes from the Grand Canal Dock Dart stop. Buses 7, 8, 45 and 47 pass close by (get off at the junction of Haddington Road and Northumberland Road).

It is open from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday and from 2pm to 5pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Admission is free. Guided tours cost €3.50/€2, with free tours at 3pm on Sundays. The museum is closed on bank-holiday weekends.

Call 01-6603770 or see nationalprintmuseum.ie.