The story of the National Print Museum itself really begins in 1985 when work commenced on saving machinery from what is probably best known in printing terms as the 'hot metal' era. In November 1990, the then Minister for Labour, Mr Bertie Ahern, T.D. opened the Irish Print Museum, which was housed in the basement of 35 Lower Gardiner St, Dublin. This premises proved to be too small almost from the day it was opened.
A committee was then formed comprising of representatives from all sections of the printing industry - commercial printers, suppliers, newspapers, trade unions and academia - all combined to preserve this vital part of our national heritage. In 1991 the Office of Public Works confirmed its donation of the Garrison Chapel in Beggars Bush Barracks, Dublin to the new National Print Museum. The building, which is under preservation order, has its own unique history and has been refurbished as near as possible to its original state.
Since 1996 many improvements have been made, including the following:
In May 1997, the Museum introduced a new 18 minute audio-visual show which documents the old skills of printing and shows many of the Museum's machines in operation. The video not only enhances the experience for the visitor, but also visually preserves many skills which are rapidly disappearing.
Facilities in our Coffee Shop now include the provision of hot lunches and we are attracting a lively business from companies in the local area. The Coffee Shop also serves as an evening venue for book launches, award ceremonies etc.
The Museum also has a major educational role to play. It caters for educational tours as well as providing an archive and study facilities for students researching printing in Ireland. During 1997-98, the cataloguing of the Museum's archive/library was completed.
A major project in 1997-1998 was the conservation of a Bookbinders banner from 1887. Painted by a Dublin artisan, the banner was carried by union members in Labour Day demonstration in Dublin in 1894. The banner is unique in design; it is double-sided and fully painted. It is an exciting and worthwhile addition to the museum's collection.
The Museum possesses as part of its collection, a vast array of woodblocks which was catalogued and printed during late summer 1997. Illustrations from this catalogue have been used in the design of Christmas cards for the museum. It is also an invaluable source for artists and graphic designers
The museum also catalogued and printed a selection of woodblocks and half-tone engravings on behalf of the Geological Survey of Ireland