by Karl Leonard, DIT NPA Internship, Sept-Dec 2013.

The Archiving in Context module for BA Photography students at the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) provides third year photography students with practical experience of working with a photographic collection at the National Photographic Archive (NPA). This internship was undertaken in the NPA under the Supervision of Elizabeth Kirwan, curator at the National Photographic Archive, and with Matthew Cains the NLI Conservator and Keith Murphy, Reading Room Manager.

Hinde postcard of Connemara Hinde postcard of Connemara (1968)

 

My task was to sort, rehouse, and list the contents of an archival box full of photographs, the NPA’s John Hinde postcard collection.  It was an opportunity to learn about the work of John Hinde, whom I had only previously known for his stereotypical Irish postcards with rolling green hills and red-haired children. I hoped that it might be possible to track down any remaining Hinde family members or Hinde studio employees to get a first-hand account of the work done by Hinde.

Mathew Cains, the National Library of Ireland’s (NLI) conservator, trained me in preservation methods, so I could handle and rehouse the Hinde Collection according to best international practice.  This included how to use Mylar housing, acid-free cardboard folders and nitrile gloves when handling photographic prints. The prints could then be catalogued, digitised and ultimately made accessible online.

I discovered that the Hinde photographic collection was produced by six photographers (including John Hinde himself) at the Hinde studios in Cabinteely, between 1957 and 1972. The NPA Hinde Collection consist of 441 colour A6 size postcards, 47 large 9”x6½” colour postcards, 10 pictorial letter guides and several miscellaneous documents and magazines related to the collection and Hinde’s career. However, it was missing its accession notes, in which museums and archives typically record the provenance of their collections.

Galtee Mountains (Hinde, 1972) Hinde postcard of Galtee Mountains (1972)

 

The Hinde Collection postcards were organised by location, under Irish county, and numbered sequentially on the back of the postcard in pencil. Through discussion with NPA staff, I gathered that the Hinde collection was in its original order.  The lack of accession notes necessitated further research to uncover who had previously organised the collection, whether it had been donated or sold to the NPA directly from the Hinde Studios in Cabinteely, or whether it had been donated or sold by a private collector. 

What had happened to the Hinde Company after it was sold to Waterford Glass in 1972?  Were there any other existing archives of Hinde’s work?  I contacted the co-curator of Johnhindecollection.com, Michelle Abadie, who along with Marcus Davies had exhibited Hinde postcards at the Photographers Gallery in London in 2013.  Hinde’s family had donated his collection to the NationalMediaMuseum in Bradford after his death and it remains to be catalogued.

I contacted senior curator at IMMA, Christina Kennedy, where the 1993 Hindesight exhibition had been presented, and Joe Lee, who had produced Hindesight, a documentary on Hinde’s work. I also contacted Sean Hillen, who had worked with Hinde during the production of his Irelantis photomontages, and David Lee, photographic historian and writer for Source magazine. He advised contacting one of the remaining Hinde studio photographers Edmund Nagele, which I did with the assistance of Michael Pritchard, who like Hinde was a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society (FRPS).

Edmund Nagele explained the process of commissioning, photographing, printing, retouching, and archiving at the Hinde studios.  As written codes like those pencilled on the NPA’s collection weren’t used, this suggested to me that the NPA’s Hinde collection was probably a donation from a private collector.

The NPA’s Hinde collection promoted Irish tourism before the development of digital imaging. Justin Carville (2011:10) argues that Hinde identified a “spiritual positivity, a sort of evangelical vision that could be projected throughout society by the humble tourist postcard.” This idealised view of Ireland was at the time in stark contrast with the grim realities of a stagnant economy and repressed society in 1950’s Ireland, thus often causing Hinde’s postcards to be “identified as emblematic of an ‘imaginary’ view of Ireland propagated by foreign photographers.”

The Hinde Studio created what Moroney (1998:20) describes as an “impossibly sunlit Ireland, dotted with red-haired kids in shawls, thatched cottages, jaunting cars, donkeys, lupin-fringed lakes: over lit landscapes of idealised rustic beauty and vivid fruit-flavoured colours.” Nagele described how all photography was undertaken with Plaubel Junior 4×5 cameras using Ektachrome-X sheet-film which was processed by hand at the factory in Cabinteely. The photographic department made black & white prints to the exact postcard size on which John Hinde made his now famous ‘colour-notes’.  These include: “make sky blue with white clouds”, “make (black) car RED”, and “remove telegraph post”.  The original transparencies together with the black & white colour-notes were sent to Milan, Italy where the colour-separation films were produced for John Hinde Ltd., and returned, after approximately six months, with the separation films and original transparencies including colour-notes. The 4-colour print separations were passed to the Platemaking Department to copy the CMYK separations onto printing plates.

Postcards Two Hinde postcard images

 

I discovered that using this technique of colour manipulation enabled Hinde to create impossibly Mediterranean blue skies and lush green fields which were to become the stereotypical representations of Ireland for many years. The scene was always very carefully constructed often with numerous return visits, and the composition was also very precisely designed often placing flowers or bushes in the front corner to add colour and fake the closeness of nature, while telephone poles and TV aerials were removed.

I was unable to establish who originally owned the collection.  I did rehouse each item in Mylar sleeves and created a detailed description of all 498 postcards.  In due course, this metadata can be transferred to the NLI’s online catalogue. I also discovered that the postcards consisted almost entirely of scenes from the thirty-two counties on the island of Ireland, with only three exceptions, two of those being airplanes in flight and the third being from one from the island of Jersey. My research revealed that Hinde photographers had travelled not only throughout Ireland particularly to Butlins Mosney holiday camp, but also throughout the UK, and to Africa and the Canary Islands.  As none of these locations feature in the NPA’s collection, it seems that the NPA Hinde Collection is a limited private collection focused on the island of Ireland.

collectionringbinder_small Hinde Collection in acid-free cardboard ringbound folder with two-pocket mylar sleeves

 

It was very rewarding to have completed this work for the NPA, sometimes laborious, but never dull. I especially enjoyed the investigative journey that unfolded which afforded me the privilege of meeting and interviewing some thoroughly interesting artists, film-makers and critics. For me it was a great learning opportunity to research and engage with such an interesting collection. 

Bibliography:

Carville, J. (2011): Photography And Ireland, London: Reaktion Books

Moroney, M. (1998): ‘Postcards From The Edge’, Cara, Vol. 31 No. 2, 20-8

Weski, T. (2008): ‘Introduction by Thomas Weski’, In: Parr, M (ed)(2008): Postcards [selected by] Martin Parr, London: Chris Boot

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by Justin Furlong, Assistant Keeper, National Library of Ireland

On August 29th, 1890, the present day National Library Ireland building was opened. Inspired by the suggestions of William Archer, NLI Librarian, designed by Thomas Deane & Son (Thomas was knighted on the day of the opening) and built by Messrs. Beckett of Ringsend, it was described on the day by the Dublin Evening Mail as ‘a magnificent pile’. This blog will outline some of the architectural features of the building and credit the craftspeople & builders who created it.

The building’s main walls are of Ballyknocken granite with exteriors constructed of MountCharles sandstone. However, this material proved to be unsuitable due to the constant weathering and acidic conditions from city pollution. In 1969 the sandstone was replaced with Ardbraccan limestone which was further restored in recent years. The range of wrought-iron railings and gates, which the library shares with our neighbours in Leinster House and the National Museum, is by J. & C. McGloughlin.

An outdoor colonnade leads into the magnificent rotunda which mirrors the Museum’s entrance across the courtyard. The entrance hall is decorated with a detailed mosaic floor and 12 beautifully designed stained glass windows by Jones and Wallis of Birmingham (featuring the Irish writer Thomas Moore). The mosaic floor, designed by Oppenheimer of Manchester, is in tones of green, blue, grey and gold. The owl, symbol of the library, is repeated throughout the floor design along with the motto “sapientia” meaning wisdom. Supporting  columns encircle the owls.

Sapientia mosaic floor detail Sapientia mosaic floor detail

 

To the right of the main hall is the former Director’s Office. This room is painted a deep red and features the wood work of Carlo Cambi of Siena. It now connects the old building to more recent additions, which include Café Joly, the Yeats exhibition and Seminar Room. The magnificent fireplace in the room is of particularly interest featuring elaborate carvings; the painting above the mantlepiece is ‘St. Patrick’s Day’ by C.H. Cook. This room balances the other side of the building, being the same size and shape as the Trustees’ Room (not currently accessible to the public) and continuing the neo-classical theme. Cambi’s work can also be observed in two (public) rooms behind the reading room counter. (Further details on Cambi can be found at http://www.dia.ie/architects/view/952/CAMBI-CARLO*%23 )

Fireplace detail by Cambi of Siena Fireplace detail by Cambi of Siena

 

Ascending the main stairwell from the entrance hall, you will notice the green, black and white marble banisters. The marble was sourced primarily from Kilkenny, Cork, Mitchelstown and Galway. The staircase leads to the first landing, with rooms to the left and right. Both of these rooms maintain neoclassical characteristics, further balancing the right and left sides of the building.

The staircase leads to beautiful stained glass windows and finally wraps around to the entrance of the reading room. Images of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci grace the stained glass, intended to inspire the individual walking upwards to the reading room.

The reading room itself is D-shaped with a coffered ceiling and the light blue and green colours of the walls, which are accurate to the period in which the library was built, but not original, provide a contrast to the fine oak woodwork. Borders of white plaster depict Neoclassical geometric forms of squares, circles and octagons. The half circle of the back wall features intertwining flowers throughout its borders; the plaster frieze in the reading room is by Harrison’s and the oak screen and doorways are by William Milligan.

Reading Room from balcony Reading Room from balcony

 

The style of desks in the main reading room were only introduced in the 1920s and 30s; the original large desks accommodated several people at once, with chairs that featured a hat rack underneath. The microfilm room, where many of our newspapers are consulted, was originally the Ladies’ Reading Room – a facility for ladies, rather than a requirement, so that they could choose where they would like to sit.

Other interesting features to note include: the Reading Room clock by Dobbyn & Son, Dublin (still working); the plaque to Thomas W. Lyster (NLI Librarian 1895-1920) on the landing outside the reading room; the clock face in what is now the copying room (formerly the Librarian’s Office); the original wrought iron umbrella stands (unfortunately we no longer allow umbrellas in the reading room); the Victorian bookstands (supplemented/replaced by modern day books cushions (these are not pillows!); and the ‘Please Sign’ sign in the photocopying office. Photographs of the reading room from the early 20th century are also on display.

For an online 360 degree tour of the Reading Room click http://www.nli.ie/en/vt/virtual-tour-reading-room.aspx . For more photographs see the Library’s Flickr page at https://www.flickr.com/photos/yournlireland

Friendly Face at the National Library! Friendly Face at the National Library!

 

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Mould can grow on any surface, especially in our wet, damp climate! It’s one of the most common and serious causes of damage to our heritage but is largely preventable. NLI conservators often deal with mould on paper and the Patrick Pearse Papers are currently getting some first-aid treatment … Here are some ‘fun facts’ you might not want to know!

Under ultraviolet light mould and inks look different Under ultraviolet light mould and inks look different

 

WHAT IS MOULD?

Mould is a type of fungus; the main body is made up of fine colourless threads called hyphae, which intertwine to make up a tangled web called the mycelium. Fruiting bodies, in which spores are formed, develop on the hyphae ends. The fluff that we can see growing in established colonies is often the tip of the iceberg. In ultraviolet light, mould fluoresces strange and wonderful colours, revealing the full extent of damage to the paper.

Fluffy brown mould on the surface of a document (MS 21093) Fluffy brown mould on the surface of a document

 

HOW DOES MOULD SPREAD AND GROW?

The air around us has billions of dormant mould spores (nice thought eh!). These tiny particles (1-10 micrometres) land on a surface such as organic materials leather, paper, glue, wood and textiles. The spores will germinate at high relative humidity (70-100%) and an optimum temperature of 24-30º Celsius. In order to grow, mould needs oxygen and food sources. Mould can also digest some synthetic materials such as adhesives, pastes and paints.

Mould has stained this document pink, black and orange Mould has stained this document pink, black and orange

 

HOW IT DAMAGES OUR STUFF?

The Pearse Papers showed the direct damage caused by mould growth. Using enzymes, mould decomposed the cellulose and paper size to extract nutrients. As moulds’ hyphae ruptured the paper structure, the items cannot be handled or read without risk of disintegration. Acidic waste products have made the paper brittle and colouring substances excreted by the mould reduces our ability to read these historic documents. This colour depends on the surface substrate and the age of the colony. It can be any colour of the rainbow!

CONSERVATION OF MOULDY PAPER

Mould can spread easily and it’s best not to breathe-in mould spores. Visible mould growth was removed with a fine brush into a HEPA vacuum cleaner nozzle under a suction hood. The presence of modern fibres and fragile inks meant treatment of the Pearse Papers was problematic. To denature the spores, an alcohol solution was carefully applied to selected items but this can damage inks so its best for such treatment to be undertake by a trained conservator. The most fragile items were washed to remove acids. Then a very thin tissue lining was applied to support the degraded paper and/or methyl-cellulose size is applied to consolidate the papers fibers. Papers unsuitable for washing were repaired using remoistenable tissue techniques.

Methycellulose size applied to strengthen mould damaged papers Methycellulose size applied to strengthen mould damaged papers

 

Any risk of new growth will be limited by correct storage conditions of low temperature and humidity. These manuscripts document an eventful period in Irish history at the turn of the twentieth century. The conserved material will be scheduled for digitisation next year and will be accessible for national and international audiences via the NLI online Catalogue http://catalogue.nli.ie/.

The Pearse Papers Project is funded by the Heritage Council HERITAGECOUNCILMASTER

Mould in your collection?

Find out more about how to manage a mould outreach from these free online guides:

http://www.cci-icc.gc.ca/resources-ressources/carepreventivecons-soinsconspreventive/mould-moisissures-eng.aspx

http://www.bl.uk/aboutus/stratpolprog/collectioncare/publications/booklets/mould_outbreaks_in%20library_and_archive_collections.pdf

Blog written by Gabrielle Vergnoux and Louise O’Connor, NLI Conservators.

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