I’m writing this on one of the most beautiful days of 2020 so far – it’s officially the beginning of summer, the sun is shining and people are out cutting their grass. It’s one of the weird days of the lockdown where, for an hour or two, you could almost forget what’s going on in the world. Most days we don’t quite have that luxury. For many of us, the disruption to our day-to-day lives has been catastrophic.

Things like ‘Memories’ on social media sites don’t help. Take this time last year, for example. I was living abroad but making plans to come home to Dublin and start the Culture and Heritage Studies course in the National Print Museum. My plan was to get back to tour guiding and get fully immersed in to the nitty gritty of working in the heritage industry. You could probably guess that things didn’t exactly go to plan. My class were four days in to work placements when the lockdown started. It has been 58 days since any of us were on site in the Print Museum, and realistically it’ll be at least another 60 or so before we’re allowed back.

To be truthful, there have been many days where I’ve felt massively disconnected from the course and from my original aims. Frankly with all that’s happened and that’s happening, not being able to give my tours and engage with visitors seems a kind of trivial problem. More often to the forefront of my mind is ‘what happens next?’. There have been many worried, late-night conversations with friends and colleagues about what the industry will look like when quarantine is lifted; ‘what will our job prospects look like?’, ‘how will museums and heritage sites survive the crunch?’ Sometimes, when things are particularly bad I find myself asking ‘what’s the point?’.

(Okay so if you’re still with me at this point, I can promise you this is building to something!).

So, while I’d been having a mope about how my glittering career was snatched from me before it even began, something pretty amazing was happening. Almost as soon as heritage sites around the world started to close their doors, virtual tours began to appear online. Free audio, video and digital content; unlimited 24/7 access to some of the most important cultural institutions around the globe. Within a week #MuseumfromHome was trending on Twitter and Instagram; the Louvre, MoMA, Rijksmuseum (among literally thousands of others) were promoting their content across social media. Smaller sites, like our own National Print Museum, had a digital collection put together to provide a virtual experience for would-be visitors online. The headline ‘Culture in Quarantine’ was splashed across the BBC and the idea gained some serious momentum.

The National Museum of Ireland seemed to go one further, and presented a special online exhibition ‘Reflections on Resilience’ – a celebration of human ingenuity and tenacity in the face of great odds.

So, why am I pointing this out? Well because if I’m honest, the #MuseumfromHome movement has been a bit of a turning point for me, and I doubt that I’m alone in that. It’s not about the quality of the content that’s been produced (although it has been amazing) – it’s about how eager people have been to engage with it. We’re not the only group tweeting and blogging about our (virtual) class trips; the input from both personal AND institutional accounts online has been staggering. People and organisations are reaching out to each other through the hashtag, suggesting tours, discussing their favourite exhibition pieces and discussing the places they want to visit when this all over. Cultural sites across the world are supporting and promoting each other, retweeting and advertising other museums for the benefit of the virtual visitors. In a time when people at home could do ANYTHING they wanted on the internet, what they want to do is discuss art, culture and heritage.

‘Reflection on Resilience’ opens with a bit of a blurb –

‘These objects tell their own stories of resilience, endurance and hope, and we hope they provide a moment for reflection in these challenging times.’

These ARE challenging times, for all of us. There are more challenging times ahead, and beyond that too. For those of us who are involved in the heritage industry, there is an uncertainty on how things will pan out. But… being involved with #MuseumfromHome for the Print Museum and experiencing ‘Reflection on Resilience’ has reminded me of three very important things;

Firstly – struggle and hardship have been a constant in history. So too has the strength of the human spirit.

Secondly – as long as there are people who want to immerse themselves in culture, as long as there are people who make lists of sites they want to visit when they can, as long as there are people who take virtual tours and support heritage sites and buy things they don’t need from a gift shop in a museum on the other side of the world…I think we’ll be just fine.

Thirdly, and most importantly (in my opinion anyway) – I love what I do, and I have no regrets.

– Jordan

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Access All Areas

If someone was to find my phone and looked at the photos on it,they would be treated to a wealth of imagery gathered from different sites around Dublin City. These images can be dated to the start of the Culture and Heritage Course in October 2017 and continues on through the weeks and seasons until now. It is a visual journey through parts of Dublin that were unknown to me and, I might suggest most of its inhabitants.
The most intriguing part of this visual journey shows behind the scenes -parts that are not in public view, the hidden corners, the crypts, the roof spaces and the basements. These out of bound places were very interesting and we had privileged back-stage passes being students of the Culture and Heritage Course.

Christmas at St. Patricks (Photo Sheila Robinson)

Coming up to Christmas 2017 we were brought on a tour of St. Patricks Cathedral. It was very atmospheric. The Christmas tree was sparkling in the main body of the Church and a general air of good humour and expectation hung in the air. Our guide was Ralph Smyth dressed in his characterful bowler hat, crombie and accompanied by a whiff of pipe tobacco. His infectious enthusiasm endeared him to us as aspiring tour guides. We were treated to the appreciation of fine marble sculpture, the best in Europe at this time and a short history of the Boyle Family (another Blog Entry) as well as of course, Patricks most famous Dean, Jonathan Swift-the author of Gulliver’s travels.


Marble calves (Photo Sheila Robinson)

As we were students of the Culture and Heritage Course we were invited to enter through a small door in the wall of the Nave. Unlocking it, the curator advised that there were many steps spiralling upwards. Well-lit and in a circular climb we reached another small door. Noting the thickness of the stone wall as we dipped through this opening we found ourselves in a gloomy hexagonal room aware that the space above us seemed to stretch unendingly into the darkness. As our eyes adjusted, the room opened up to us. We were in the Bell Tower.
The ringing ropes hung in loops above us and various boxes of different heights were placed in a circle. My companions were invited to climb further up the tower and because I had a painful knee, I made my excuses and decided to return downwards.

“You’ll won’t be able to” said the Curator

“You’ll have to wait here until we come back down.”

“Ok” I replied chipperly. This is how on the 20th December I found myself locked in the bell tower of St Patricks Cathedral.
So as the door closed behind them and their voices faded, I became aware of my aloneness in this room which seemed not to have a ceiling. The artificial light was centred on the middle of the room and daylight, all that it was on the 20th of December, was greying through the four ordinate gothic diamond paned windows. I became increasingly aware of not wanting to move from the centre of the room so willed myself to go exploring. Stepping forward towards the windows, my heart trying to keep in time with the ticking of the grandfather clock against the stone wall I started to explore. To my dismay I discovered that these were openings in the walls. Spiral stone staircases wound upwards within these spaces. The openings were situated in each corner. It was difficult to see beyond the first couple of steps. Black and white photographs in old frames were hung haphazardly their subjects dressed in indefinable fashions. Only that they were labelled April 1946 would I have been able to discern the decade. I imagined them to start moving about animatedly as they do in Harry Potter films.


Loops (Photo Sheila Robinson)

Suddenly there was a deep sonorous thump, bigger than the one in my heart. It seemed to come from somewhere else but the continuous ticking of the grandfather clock calmed me a little as I listened for any sign of life at all. I presumed that the noise was part of the clock works
I began to feel my imprisonment. Trying to be all grown up about this, I rang my husband, comforted that the technology worked.

“Guess where I am? I said In the bell tower of St Patricks.”

“ That’s Nice- I have to go” said Seumas “Bye…..”

Well at least he knows where to find me if I disappear I thought to myself. No sign of anyone- they couldn’t have forgotten me?
I resigned myself to be a princess and comfortable now, started to photograph my domain, laughing at the absurd signage and marveling at the lack of a draught.

Signage in the Bell Tower (Photo Sheila Robinson)

I sat down on a needle worked cushion and began to enjoy the exclusivity of my prison and almost felt put out when the handle of the door jangled and it opened. The gang were all here and we started our descent.

I’ve become a tourist in my own city. Looking back through my photos, I’m struck by not only the amount of visits to historic parts but also by the wealth of heritage that the city provides. The layers of history have been peeled back and revealed, interpreted by engaging guides, passionate about their place. And hopefully as I go forward as a fully-fledged tour guide I can display the same love and interest in this wonderful city of Dublin.

– Sheila

Sheila has gone on to become a tour guide with 14 Henrietta Street and is on the tour guide panel for the National Museum of Ireland, Collins Barracks.

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Follow the Yellow Brick Road

Last year I found myself feeling like Dorothy when she met the Scarecrow, I was at a point in the road and didn’t know which way to go. Do I proceed along the current career route? But I would love to try something different, how do I do that? Well you’ve got to educate yourself don’t you? After all the scarecrow was looking for a brain. Don’t get me wrong, I do have brains but I wanted my brain to grow and expand so I could do something new. So I made a decision to go back to education which, as a mature student, is probably never an easy decision to make.
I discovered the Culture and Heritage Studies course almost by accident, (or was someone sending me a sign?). I met a woman at an education fair who told me about the course when I told her I was interested in culture; I wish I took that woman’s number so I could thank her, as I’ve spent the last year learning about what I love to do in my spare time, which is visiting museums and heritage sites. In this course I was going to study archaeology, history, heritage and folklore, I was also going to learn how to be a tour guide; it sounded great!
This course lead me onto becoming a tour guide at The National Print Museum, having a love of folklore, working at The National Museum of Ireland, Country Life and, a yet to begin, third level education.
I thought I knew what folkore was, but really it’s so much more than I realised. I still remember my first folklore class, I was so excited by the end of it; I couldn’t believe I was actually going to be studying this for a year, it was right up my street. The more I learned about folklore the more I realised that most of it is still part of Irish culture. For fans of Harry Potter did you know that JK Rowling did most of her research around wizards from folklore! I’ve found it’s just a fascinating subject.


The Druid, Cathbad, Seer of Deirdre (taken from Bard Mythologies)

This lead onto me seeking my work placement in the Museum of Country Life in Mayo.  The museum accepted me so it was actually going ahead, but ‘The Beast from the East’ was trying to prevent me but nothing was going to get in my way.  I packed up my car and with the snow receding in early March I moved to Mayo for three weeks.


Image of snow in a Dublin housing estate (by Deirdre McGuirk)

The team in Mayo welcomed me with open arms, and they gave me the opportunity to write my own tour of the museum. I found it very daunting at first but everyone had faith in me, so I realised I needed to have faith in myself. I got stuck into the task with my trustee copy of Kevin Danaher’s ‘The Year in Ireland’ by my side, which is full of insights into the folklore calendar of Ireland. My tour was a based on Calendrical Customs in rural Ireland which I presented at the end of my placement. Over three weeks in the museum I got to participate in excellent workshops and assist in writing a self-guided tour for children. By the end of my three weeks I felt right at home in Turlough Park and didn’t want to leave thanks to the great people I met there.


National Museum of Ireland, Country Life, Turlough Park (taken from https://www.museum.ie/Country-Life)

Returning to Dublin and The National Print Museum, we were all very happy with our work placements and had lots of news to share. Straight away it was back into the studies and I cannot believe how fast the last five months have gone. We’ve had exams and assignments keeping us on our toes from week to week, it is very hard work but so interesting and very rewarding. All our tutors and staff in the museum have been so helpful and have gotten me through this year dealing with life as a mature student. Even more than this I was encouraged to apply for third level education, which I had no intention of doing. There were gentle pushes from my tutors and I kept going with it, as the more I learned on this course the more I wanted to learn and to cut a long story short I start a third level degree in Culture and Environmental Studies in GMIT in September.
So now I am packing up my life, a born and bred Dub and moving to the country! I’ve wanted to do this for years but now it’s actually happening and it’s very nerve racking. Next I have to depart my safe and secure new home of The National Print Museum. I’ve had a wonderful time here; this is the best course I’ve ever done. Along with getting the opportunity to be a tour guide and imparting knowledge to the public, I’ve learned so much. This year has been hard to grapple with at times, but I wouldn’t change it. I’ve met some amazing people between the National Print Museum and The Museum of Country Life, who it will be very hard to say goodbye to, but if folklore thought me anything it’s to believe. I can go on a fantastic adventure and meet so new great friends along the way.

~ Deirdre

wizard of oz

The Tin Man, Dorothy, The Scarecrow and The Lion, from The Wizard of Oz

Deirdre has now gone on to study for a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Heritage Studies at Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology.


Deirdre guiding visitors around the National Print Museum (Photo credit: Joe Melican).

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Retraining after Redundancy

In 2016, after working in the community & voluntary sector for over a 30 year period my post was made redundant. This was my third job loss and after seeking professional career advice, I took a deep breath and decided to retrain. Keen to link my early career in the hospitality industry with my love of delivering and making information accessible to everyone I opted to do the CDETB Cultural & Heritage Studies course at the National Print Museum. Yes, it was a bit of a shock to my system to study full-time & cover tour guiding duties in the museum at weekends. Still I have no regrets. I found each of the modules interesting, the tutors supportive & my fellow students a great bunch of people to share a classroom with. I did my work experience in Dublin Castle (OPW) and after the course I did a placement at 14: Henrietta Street (Dublin City Council) – these together with my course results led me to secure full-time work. Of course there were moments of question & frustration during the 48 week CDEBT programme – that’s life! Do I regret my choice of course? Not at all …so to anyone interested working in the area of culture & heritage why not visit the National Print Museum & make enquiries about the course!

Christine Flynn
Cultural & Heritage Studies Graduate 2016/17

Christine is currently employed by Cool Planet Experience, at Powerscourt Estate, Enniskerry, Co Wicklow as a Visitor Services & Education Officer



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A Crafty Experience

National Print Museum Students visit to National Museum of Ireland, Kildare Street 

Annie Birney, the National Museum of Ireland’s Educator, hosted an educational event on 19th May 2017, for the National Print Museum’s Cultural & Heritage Studies programme.

I was extremely fortunate to be one of the six learners, who together with our Course Co-ordinator Gillian Lamb, benefitted from a varied range of activities during this special day. At that time we were preparing for an assessment on Irish Leather Crafts. So in advance of our visit Annie, and our course’s Assistant Co-Ordinator Hillary O’Callaghan, devised a schedule that would maximise opportunities for learning in that context.

First Annie led us on a mini-tour of the museum, highlighting relevant craft or leather related artefacts. On previous visits we had self-guided –all agreed it was so much more useful to learn through Annie’s insider knowledge. After the tour one of the museums interns invited us to see Early Medieval pampooties. Found, preserved in a bog, these shoes were made from one piece of leather and were worn in the Aran Islands until the 20th century.

Next, we were introduced to the museums Handling Collection – a range of numbered replica artefacts were displayed. Their corresponding numbers were placed in a lucky dip jar. Once we picked a number off we went on a treasure hunt to find the real artefact in the museum. Our selection included Neolithic Bann Flake arrow heads and an Early Bronze Age funerary urn and afterwards everyone got to make a brief presentation on their chosen artefact.

Following a pic-nic lunch, which Catherine shared unexpectedly with one cheeky  feathered Stephens Green resident, we returned to do a Leathercraft Workshop.

Facilitated by Roísín Gartland, a conceptual artist and designer, the workshop proved to be an inspirational learning experience. Under Roisin’s gentle guidance we used prepared materials to create a simple leather phone case.

My prior knowledge of the ‘hairy vellum’ which medieval scribes had to work on made me extremely appreciative of the clean, soft leathers my inexperienced hands were manipulating. Our awls and hammers tapped out non-melodic rhythms, to create spiral patterns on the front of our cases. A satisfying, and relatively easy stage – almost therapeutic in nature.However the next stage was more challenging -the task of replicating our experienced facilitators perfect edge stitching. Tension mounted in more ways than one, resulting in a shortage of oiled cotton thread, mild frustration and in my case the tedium of unpicking of 74 loose stitches!

During this 60 minute process we chatted like the fictitious Ladies Aid sewing circles in L.M Montgomery’s  Anne of Green Gables. Reflecting afterwards, I had a sense of having been part of a temporary creative community. However, leather work I realise requires total concentration, good eyesight and a particular type of patience I have yet to acquire. The next time I pass a window displaying quality leather goods my first thought will be of the craftsmanship and not the price tag.!

Sincere thanks to The National Museum of Ireland, Annie Birney and all involved for making our visit a crafty learning experience

The National Museum of Ireland : www.nmi.ie

Roísín Gartland : http://www.roisingartland.com.

National Print Museum: www.nationaprintmuseum.ie

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Glasnevin Cemetery – A visit

The trainees from the Certificate in Cultural and Heritage Studies at the National Print Museum went on our Wednesday afternoon excursion to Glasnevin Cemetery on 17th May 2017.

We got the bus to Glasnevin and started with a leisurely stroll through The Botanic Gardens. It was looking beautiful as usual but with a bit of extra finesse because of the impending visit from Prince Charles and Camilla. The newly opened gate between the gardens and the cemetery is a bonus so a simple walk through brings you straight to the museum and tour start. It wasn’t always the way when I grew up beside ‘The Bots’ you had to walk around to the main gate but not anymore. It brought back some great memories and so nice to go mid-week.

We started our tour just outside the visitor centre. Our guide was Grainne and she definitely knew her stuff. She brought us to the grave of O’ Donovan Rossa and a eulogy from Patrick Pearse was read out by a fully uniformed gentleman.  He said it with such pride and conviction it was hard not to be stirred. It is read out everyday at 2.30 pm and well worth a look.


We then started the tour proper. Gráinne pointed out various graves relating to 1916. We then stopped at the monumental tomb of Daniel O’ Connell. She told us how he had a vision of one all inclusive cemetery so everyone can be lain together. The tower itself is not open to the public but should be within months. We then had to guess how much we thought a tomb in the O’ Connell circle would cost….€5,000….€10,000……..more like €40,000 She said. But this is for the whole family so do the maths. We then went inside his tomb, quite a sight to see his coffin and it is said to be lucky if you touch it. The walls are decorated with his achievements.

We continued on to other notable graves; Charles Stewart Parnell, de Valera , the Republican plot and also the cremation wall.

Then as ever the rains came and we all went inside to the visitor centre and upstairs Grainne very obligingly continued on with the tour. We had a great vantage point and we could pick out different graves. She had a wealth of knowledge and knew where everyone was resting.

We spoke a bit about the proclamation and we added our knowledge of the document from our original copy at the Print Museum. There was a big number on the tour and when the rain stopped not all continued outside again. Now we had a chance to ask where specific notables were buried like Erskine Childers, Elizabeth O’ Farrell and Countess Markievicz. Gráinne also brought us to the war memorial wall. It was sad to read all the names and ages. We had time at the end to go explore the museum and ask any questions. It is a very worthwhile tour and long overdue on my behalf.

I can’t recommend it enough.

Louise is a student on the Certificate in Cultural and Heritage Studies course at the National Print Museum.

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Green Sleeves (The Irish Printed Record Cover 1955-2017)

Henry Vlll may have conceived of ‘Greensleeves’ in the first place but the exhibition currently running at the National Print Museum probably wasn’t what he had in mind.

Launched by Sean Sills on 4th of May and unveiled by curators Ciaran Swan and Niall McCormack, it’s a display of Irish album and singles covers from a variety of genres over a span of different decades.

On opening night Sean related how, when he was a lad, he used to fill Dickie Rock’s tank at a Sandymount petrol station and how he can vouch that the red sports car which features on Dickie’s album cover displayed in the exhibition was no mere prop.

Some of these album covers are ‘so naff they are cool’ (words of Niall McCormack) and some are just cool anyway. Many are organised into their own sections –Religious, Gael Linn, Traditional and a few others but all the album covers seem to have a relationship with one another and to speak to the viewer.

Horslips have their own Celtic Rock Wall of Fame, their sleeves designed chiefly by band member Charles O’Connor.

Steve Averill’s iconic ‘Boy’ design graces the wall, supported by a couple more covers it helped influence (Paranoid Vision’s ‘I Will Wallow’ for example).

Green Sleeves is not all about the designers and not all about the bands. D.I.Y. before punk expectorated its first gob, the exhibition is about public and private passions and working to tight budgets.

These sleeves create an indefinable chemistry and magic and prompt several emotional responses.

Each one’s a gem in its own right, but you have to be there… The exhibition closes in October.

Róisin is a trainee on the CDETB Culture and Heritage Studies Certificate at the National Print Museum.


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UCD Centre for Experimental Archaeology and Material Culture

One of the best excursions of the Cultural and Heritage Studies class so far was to the UCD Centre for Experimental Archaeology and Material Culture. Professor Aidan O’Sullivan, Director, and Brendan O’Neill, Assistant Director made our group very welcome and explained the fascinating practice of finding out about how people lived in the past.

The Centre is one of only a few worldwide which is specifically designed to carry out experimental archaeology; that is, testing theories as to how dwellings were built, food produced, tools fashioned, using only materials from the period. Our visit began with a reconstruction of Ireland’s oldest dwelling, from the Mesolithic era. The surviving evidence from the site at Mount Sandel was re-created at UCD to build an interpretation of the dwelling.

Seeing the physical materials brought the theory learned in class to life; as a visual learner it made a great impression in my mind as to what conditions were like in prehistoric Ireland. Brendan then showed us an early Medieval dwelling which he had built, using heather as a roofing material. We learned of the practice of people bringing the wooden threshold and lintel with them to their new home. A house such as this only lasted about a decade as the people lived in harmony with their environment; cutting the trees when they were sufficiently grown and building a new home only when necessary. The one room dwelling had no chimney and therefore the smell of smoke permeated our clothes. In this room we were shown a block of butter and cheese crafted in the same manner as in the past.

Finally we were brought inside a Viking house, a rectangular structure still under construction. We learned that despite what we may have seen in tourist attractions, there was in fact no daub used in the making of the walls but the process of wattle was practiced by Vikings. Aidan described Viking Dublin as a multicultural city as it is today, with much trade, bustling business and activity making the fabric of daily life.

The Centre is very open and welcoming to the public. Staff are encouraged to talk to passers-by, especially as a public path runs outside the facility which is regularly used by dog-walkers and others.




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From Craft to Technology and Back Again: Print’s Progress in the 20th Century

The National Print Museum, Printing Historical Society and Centre for Printing History and Culture hosted the international conference “From Craft to Technology and Back Again:  Print’s Progress in the 20th Century” at the Labour History Museum, Beggars Bush on Thursday and Friday 30th and 31st of March.

Twenty speakers covered a range of subjects such as Industrial Photogravure and its Influence on Design, The Psychological Profile of the Monotype Caster, Hiding in Plain Sight: Irish Commercial Label Art and Elizabeth Yeats & The Cuala Press.  Also included were Non-Latin type & Typography: Harmony & Discord:  the Visual Language of Iranian Graphic Design, The Plebian Newsaper, state printing restrictions in 1963 Singapore and Colm O’Lochlainn , Irish Font Design:  From Colm Cill to Columcille.  The latter a brief history of the man behind the intriguing Sign of Three Candles.

We, the volunteers from the Cultural and Heritage Studies course helped out showing visitors around, manning the refreshments stand and sitting in on many of the fascinating talks.

The weather defied the forecasters.  Spring sunshine was enjoyed by all during breaks along with coffee, tea, sandwiches and cake in plentiful supply from the Press Café. The merits of heating your teacup before committing yourself to a cup of tea was hotly discussed along with many of interesting facts and stories that had been learned about the legend and lore of the print industry.

A hugely successful conference, speakers and attendees from Ireland, America, Sweden, Singapore and the U.K., rounded off by an animated discussion on the subject of ‘fine art, finer art, and finest art’ and whether Irish commercial art is ever truly appreciated.  It is.

*See http://printinghistoricalsociety.org.uk/forthcoming_phs_events/index.html for full programme

Róisín Sheerin, CDETB Culture and Heritage Studies Trainee.

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Course Open Day 2016!


Are you interested in finding out more about our Cultural & Heritage Studies course?

Are you thinking about applying for the course in September 2016?

Then come along to our Open Day!!

Our Open Day takes place on Monday 22nd August 2016 in the National Print Museum. The day starts at 10am with a presentation by the Course Coordinators explaining the different modules and elements of the course. This will be followed by a free tour of the museum for all attendees. Candidates who would like to be considered for the course will then be interviewed.

If you have any queries about the Open Day, or would like to confirm your attendance please email the Course Coordinator at claireanderson@nationalprintmuseum.ie .

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