Minister Jack Chambers TD Opens New Exhibition

Young girl and boy visiting the National Print Museum

Minister Jack Chambers TD Opens New Exhibition

‘Miniature Masterpieces’ at the National Print Museum explores the role of stamps in charting the evolution of Irish cultural identity over the last century

Miniature Masterpieces: 100 years of Irish stamps, a joint exhibition between An Post and the National Print Musuem, that celebrates a century of postage stamps in Ireland, is now open at the National Print Museum. The exhibition was officially opened on 13 December by Minister of State with responsibility for International and Road Transport and Logistics and Postal Policy, Jack Chambers TD.

Dedicated to the history, design and production of these miniature masterpieces and Irish cultural ambassadors, the exhibition displays not only a wide selection of Irish stamps but also original artwork, design proofs, printing plates and other treasures from the An Post Museum & Archive, some of which will be on public display for the first time.

Supported by the Government of Ireland, Miniature Masterpieces will run at the National Print Museum for six months, until May 2024. Commenting at the official opening of the exhibition today, Minister Jack Chambers said: “Irish stamps offer a fascinating perspective on our nation. This tiny window into our history, culture, and society is an iconic representation of who we are and the events that have shaped us. I am delighted that An Post is sharing material from its archive to facilitate this unique event in the Decade of Centenaries programme.”

Visitors will be able to view on a digital database the range of stamps issued by the Post Office since the printing of the first official Irish stamp in 1922 and chart the evolution of Irish cultural identity as represented in stamp design over the last century. From the official overprinting in Irish of British King George V stamps, to the symbolism of the first Irish stamp designs in 1922-23, to today’s confident expressions of Irish identity in fashion, music, and urban street art – the exhibition explores the changing interpretation of Ireland and its culture through stamp design.

“This exhibition acknowledges the contribution of all involved in Irish stamp production but, above all, it pays tribute to the stamp itself and invites our visitors to take time to think about this unassuming fragment of coloured paper,” said the exhibition’s curator, Stephen Ferguson, who is the Company Archivist & Museum Curator at An Post. “At first glance, a stamp is just an everyday object in the corner of a letter but, on closer inspection, it’s a work of art, a symbol of identity, and a unique prism through which we can view and reflect on the formation and development of the Irish State.”

CEO of the National Print Museum, Carla Marrinan Funder added: “At the National Print Museum, we are dedicated to championing print and making its impact upon the world visible to all. Through our working collection of printing presses, we strive to preserve the knowledge and craft of letterpress and to draw attention to the presence of print and design in the overlooked objects we use every day. The Miniature Masterpieces exhibition does just this by examining the role of Irish postage stamps in representing Ireland and its people over the last century and encouraging people to look differently at themselves and the world around them.

“It also invites visitors to consider the continued value of the postage stamp as a miniature representative of Ireland across the world, and to envisage how it will continue to evolve in this digital age. We look forward to welcoming people of all ages to our exhibition and hope they will enjoy delving into the fascinating story of Ireland’s postage stamps.” 

 New booklet and artwork created to mark exhibition celebrates rich heritage of Irish design

An illustrated exhibition booklet, Miniature Masterpieces – Cultural identity, artistic expression and a century of Irish stamps, by the exhibition’s curator, Stephen Ferguson, draws on additional material held in the An Post Museum & Archive and elsewhere to accompany what is the first major display of Irish philatelic material for many years.

In response to the rich heritage of Irish design celebrated in Miniature Masterpieces, the National Print Museum has collaborated with graphic designer Niall McCormack and letterpress printer Mary Plunkett to create an original artwork.

Inspired by the work of celebrated designer Patrick Scott and the distinctive Irish landscape, McCormack has designed a limited-edition letterpress print that responds to the design and printing processes found in Irish stamps. According to McCormack, it is a contemporary piece that captures the importance of the landscape to ideas of Irishness.

Produced by Mary Plunkett in a limited edition of 50 on the National Print Museum’s Vandecook #4 press, the print is available to purchase (€40) at the National Print Museum and online shop. Sponsored by the Design and Crafts Council, all proceeds raised from the print go to the National Print Museum, a registered charity.

Miniature Masterpieces will run at the National Print Museum until 3 May 2024. Admission is free and all are welcome. Opening hours: Tuesday – Friday (10am-4pm), Saturday & Sunday (12noon-4pm). No booking necessary. 



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