Ireland takes a stand for a craft not to be forgotten. On Thursday, July 28th, 2019 the country’s Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan TD launched Ireland’s permanent National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage -a measure representing official State recognition of cultural practices all around the country and will serve to protect and promote these practices for generations to come. Celebrating living cultural heritage practices 30 elements of living Irish culture were given official recognition at the event which took place at Waterways Ireland and Letterpress Printing is one of them.

“It is wonderful to see such a variety of customs and traditions from all over the country being acknowledged here today. Each of these threads in the cultural tapestry of our lives makes us richer as individuals and as a country. None of this would be possible without the work of committed volunteers all around the country, whose involvement in their communities’ cultural practices and heritage traditions have sustained them over the generations. I am delighted to honour those customs, practices and traditions through official State recognition on the National Inventory” noted the Minister.

The development of the National Inventory of Ireland’s Intangible Cultural Heritage is an integral part of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht’s work under the 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage which requires signatory States to recognise, protect and promote the living cultural heritage of their countries.

As noted in Ireland’s National Print Museum social media posts the recognition of letterpress printing in this capacity is the result of a successful application by the museum’s CEO, Carla Marrinan Funder, to the above. 

In the event of Ireland’s pledge to protect and preserve the art of the letterpress craft we take a look at the country’s National Print Museum. Spear-headed by Sean Galavan, the National Print Museum was founded by members of the print industry and it opened its doors in 1996. Today the Museum is fully accredited under The Heritage Council’s Museums Standards Programme for Ireland.

“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”

“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” notes the museum which runs an exhibition on NASA’s ever-so-popular Apollo 11 anniversary -part of its temporary exhibitions agenda which explores the impact of print and the powerful role it played in shaping our histories.

“In recent times, there has been an international revival in letterpress as a craft form. Possible reasons for this resurgence of interest is the reality of digital fatigue and a yearning for the hand’s involvement in design and craft”  

“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” adds National Print Museum that celebrates the 50th anniversary of man landing on the moon with the opening of “To the Moon” exhibition

Curated by Dr Ciaran Swan “To the Moon” explores Ireland’s response to the man landing of the moon through print. Given the historical significance of the events of July 20th, 1969, a range of coverage was evident across the island. The front pages of national and regional newspapers, as well as the RTE Guide, give a flavour of the response in the exhibition.

“In recent times, there has been an international revival in letterpress as a craft form. Possible reasons for this resurgence of interest is the reality of digital fatigue and a yearning for the hand’s involvement in design and craft, and the idea of going full circle – from craft to technology and back again” adds the National Print Museum, a shrine of love to the letterpress that made us. 

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Explore more or Ireland’s museum here. All images via the National Print Museum’s Facebook page here.

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