The National Print Museum, tucked away in the Old Garrison Chapel of the Beggars Bush Barracks on Haddington Road, Dublin 4 is a little gem dedicated to the history of letterpress printing.
The museum is small but fascinating with a number of old printing machines laid out across the exhibit floor space. Upstairs there is an exhibit space and currently running is the exhibit, “Green Sleeves: The Irish Printed Record”, examining the Irish-printed album cover of Irish groups as well as albums from abroad referencing Ireland or Irishness. The collection dates from the 1950s to present day and runs until 1st October 2017.
About a year ago I stumbled upon this Museum while searching for the PRESS Café. I had heard great things about this coffee place located beside a print museum. When I entered the building, there were a couple of people looking around and a few men working on old print machines that were dotted around the floor.
Turns out the men were retired printers and typesetters, volunteering their time to maintain the old machines, and to assist with front of house duties and with the Museum’s education programme. One of the volunteers kindly introduced himself and offered to show me around. He demonstrated some of the machines, including a large printing machine that is accompanied by an original 1916 Proclamation framed and hanging on the wall beside it.
He told me first-hand accounts about the creation of the original proclamation from the men who were involved in its production. He had heard the men speaking at a special 1916 commemoration event in the 1960s! He then pointed out some of the technical imperfections in the printing on the original document, which he explained “as understandable” given the circumstances the compositors and printer had been under at the time. He relayed their stories with great enthusiasm and I felt privileged to hear them.
I was then shown letterpress printing techniques by another volunteer, a retired print engineer, who also shared his experiences of working as a newspaper editor over 40 years ago and the difficulties he had faced every day using these techniques. This, I thoroughly enjoyed! I was lucky to have met the volunteers as they only meet in the museum occasionally.
I did have coffee (and cake) eventually in Press café and it was delicious!
For more information about the National Print Museum and upcoming events and workshops, check out their website here.