The last big show of the travelling exhibition Irish Country Posters was held in the Douglas Hyde Gallery, Trinity College, Dublin, in cooperation with the National College of Art and Design (NCAD). Sean McCrum, then the director of the Gallery, and Tommy Weir, the curator, enjoyed to host the project and were convinced of its cultural importance.
Posters advertising local events and businesses, printed in runs of some dozen copies from wooden type were present all over the country. The medium gradually declined and colorful prints disappeared when prosperity was growing in Ireland after entering the EU, which was later promoted by the campaign Keep Ireland Tidy. Additionally the spread of TV kept people away from local carnivals and dances. Sales and auctions were more and more announced in the newspaper.
Still these posters remain part of everyday life, just as jars, pans and kettles do. They were made with no ‘aesthetic’ aim. The only purpose was function. Simple rules were applied: “The word must fit the line”, “The line must be filled” or “The name must appear as strong&rdqu. The colors happened, more or less, randomly. Often a printer simply used inks, which were on the press from the previous poster edition.
The project of students from the Design Department, University of Applied Sciences in Bielefeld, Germany (Fachhochschule Bielefeld), is today history. The wood type collection from Corrigan & Wilson Ltd., Dublin, The Leitrim Observer, Carrick-on-Shannon, Co. Leitrim, and others, and most of the old machines we had saved is now part of collections of the Museum für Druckkunst in Leipzig (Museum of the Printing Arts Leipzig).
Some of the exhibition panels and photographs are meanwhile used to form walls in our guesthouse. But most of them are still stacked in different places in my studio, including posters by Jackie Dann, Longford, Co. Longford, Thomas Morahan, Strokestown, Co. Roscommon, The County Donegal Printing Works Ltd., Letterkenny, Co. Donegal, and others.
When Bunratty Folk Park Museum in Co. Clare took over the machines, type and remains from the Strokestown Democrat Printing Works to open John Forster’s Printing in their small museum town we believed they’d be interested in all the other material, too. But this didn’t happen. They had cleared all they got from Nell Morahan in the early eighties and run a Kitsch-Shop on the premises now (2011). The remains of the items is left unknown, including an Albion press from around 1830 and an extremely rare wooden travel platen.
The project had been published in a small volume, Irish Country Posters. Plakate in der irischen Provinz, Bielefeld, Essen 1982, with a preface by Hildegard Hamm-Brücher, the gentlewoman of German liberalism.
The answer to what is going happen to the collection, which is part of the Irish Heritage seems unclear. The German Poster Museum (Deutsches Plakat Museum) as part of the Museum Folkwang, Essen, collects more or less art posters. The focal point of the Museum of the Printing Arts Leipzig is technique, not folk culture. I strongly believe that this part of the National Irish Heritage belongs to Ireland and should be on display in the National Museum of Ireland, Country Life, Turlough Park, Castlebar, Co. Mayo. Nevertheless, Piotr Rypson of the National Museum in Warsaw had shown interest in the collection, though the Wilanów Poster Museum, too, focuses on art and not folk culture.