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06/14/2024

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The remarkable contribution of the Yeats sisters to Irish craft culture is being celebrated in a new exhibition in the Old Library from this week.

 

In partnership with the Department of Foreign Affairs, a touring version of the exhibition will also be shown internationally through Ireland’s global network of Embassies and Consulates, introducing new audiences to Irish design heritage and the lasting legacies of Elizabeth and Lily Yeats and other Cuala artists, while also celebrating local female-led creative and craft enterprises.

 

Elizabeth and Susan (Lily) Yeats were nationally and internationally recognised as leading figures in the Arts and Crafts movement in the early 20th century, but their contribution has perhaps been overshadowed by those of their brothers, painter Jack Yeats and WB Yeats, the poet and Noble Laureate. 

 

Elizabeth and Lily founded two successful craft business in Dublin, Dun Emer Industries (1902-1908) and Cuala Industries (1908-1940), which specialised in fine publishing, including books and artist designed prints under the directorship of Elizabeth, and embroidery under Lily. Their work was in demand from Irish and international customers. Both businesses almost exclusively employed and trained young women.  

 

On display in Trinity’s Old Library are photographs and other archival material giving a flavour of the working lives of the Cuala women as well as examples of the prints and needlecraft produced by the business. Digital screens in the Long Room showcase further material from Trinity’s Cuala collections. Entitled ‘The Yeats Sisters & Irish Design: Making, Identities & Legacies’, the exhibition forms part of the Book of Kells visitor experience and runs until 26 September. See hereherehere to book tickets

 

“Over the last number of years, the Cuala Press Project has worked to raise the profile of the Yeats sisters and the artists they collaborated with,” explains Dr Angela Griffith from Trinity’s School of Histories and Humanities and co-curator of the exhibition. 

 

This exhibition illustrates how the Cuala Industries constructed a distinctive and sophisticated form of Irish cultural identity for national and international audiences. The quality of art and design production at Cuala demonstrates their engagement with, and promotion of, national and international Arts and Crafts theories and practices. Cuala set a standard that all others followed in Ireland. Their work also provides important insight into the social status of working women in the first half of the twentieth century, the contribution of women to industry, and the agency of women in art and design production both in Ireland and internationally.

 

"The international touring version of this exhibition will honour and celebrate the global footprint of the Yeats sisters’ design heritage,” comments Dr Angela Byrne, co-curator of the exhibition.

As Irish women of the Yeats sisters’ generation emigrated in their droves, the constant flow of people between Ireland and the wider world nurtured and inspired cultural expression. Dun Emer textiles were displayed at the 1904 World’s Fair in St Louis and at Irish fairs in New York. They are part of the creative legacy of Ireland’s struggle for independence and the process of finding our place in the world.

 

Trinity is home to a range of fascinating material related to Cuala Press including beautiful handprinted and hand coloured artist-designed prints, records from the Cuala’s business archive, a complete set of published works, as well as the printing press, type and some hundreds of printer's blocks. A selection of this  material is available to the public as a digital collection, The Cuala Press Collection, as part of the Virtual Trinity Library.  

 

An ongoing project to catalogue, conserve, digitise and increase public awareness of the collection is supported by the Schooner Foundation.  

 

Laura Shanahan, Head of Research Collections, the Library of Trinity College Dublin, added:  

The Library is proud to be able to share the work of these incredible women in this exhibition, as a result of the research and conservation-archival partnership between the Library and the department of History of Art and Architecture in Trinity Collection Dublin. The material displayed in this exhibition demonstrates the skill and foresight of these women entrepreneurs, and we expect their story to captivate visitors who will long remember Cuala Industries, the Yeats sisters, and their impact and influence in Ireland and beyond.

 

About the Cuala Press Project

Trinity’s Cuala Press Research Project is a collaboration between the Library of Trinity College Dublin and the Department of the History of Art and Architecture. It is funded by the Schooner Foundation. The Project focuses on the work of Elizabeth C. Yeats and the artists that contributed designs to this exceptional female-run private press. The designers involved are among some of the most important 20th century Irish artists, not least among them was Jack Yeats, Elizabeth’s youngest sibling, and women such as Beatrice Elvery and Dorothy Blackham. As a result of Schooner’s philanthropic investment, for the first time Cuala materials have been made available as a digital collection, The Cuala Press Collection, as part of Virtual Trinity Library. The aim of the project is to catalogue, conserve, research and digitize the collections, providing access to researchers, scholars of all ages and the wider public.  

 

The Cuala Press Print Collection comprises hand-printed and hand-coloured original artist-led designs. The Cuala Press Business Archives comprises approximately 81 boxes of material relating to the company business such as minute books of directors' meetings, cash books and letters. This collection also includes original preparatory drawings for prints, sample books, and designs for embroidery. Personal material such as photograph albums and scrapbooks also provide an invaluable insight to the working lives of the women of Cuala. Example are included in this exhibition.  

 

Image: Detail from Mary Cottenham Yeats, The Rainbow, Dublin: Cuala Press, 1910s, hand coloured photoengraving  - IE TCD MS 11574/20/1.

 

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06/11/2024

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Greg Sheaf

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The Library is glad to report that the window restoration project in the 1937 Reading Room is reaching its final stages. New windows have been fitted throughout the building and various upgrades have been made to the roof and drainage system.

One of the few remaining jobs to be completed is the installation of new blinds in the main reading room space. This requires the construction of scaffolds, which means the main reading room space will need to close for three days from the 12th - 14th June 2024. During this period, Kinsella Hall will be available on a 24/7 basis as an alternative space for evening, weekend and overnight study. And the Library's main reading rooms will remain accessible as normal on the summer opening schedule. Normal service (i.e. 24-hour opening) is expected to resume in the 1937 Reading Room on Saturday 15th June.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your ongoing patience as we complete the final stages of this challenging and complex project.

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05/24/2024

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Greg Sheaf

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Illustrator Annie West has donated a series of original drawings from her book ‘Yeats in Love’ and touring exhibitions. Annie West's irreverent art brings to life W.B. Yeats’s pursuit of the Irish republican revolutionary, Maud Gonne and includes other well-known figures such as the poet’s sisters Lolly and Lily Yeats and literary figures such as James Joyce and Oscar Wilde. The book was published by New Island books in 2014.

The ‘Yeats in Love: the Annie West Archive’ was donated in April 2024 by Annie West to the Library of Trinity College Dublin in memory of her mother Daphne Siggins, who graduated with a BA in 1953 and worked in the College from 1979-1996. 

The archive consists of 24 pen & ink drawings from the book; 10 drawings from its exhibition; as well as material associated with the development of the graphic book, including research, general notes, sketches, scribbles, and original drafts.

Head of Research Collections, Laura Shanahan said: 

The Library of Trinity College Dublin seeks to continuously build on its unique contemporary collections. Annie West’s donation of these beautiful illustrations reflect her creative imagination, innovation and flair, bringing Yeats’ life and poetry along with a roll call of historical and literary figures to new audiences. It is important that the contemporary female voice has a strong presence in our collections and donations such as these are important in achieving that.

Sligo based illustrator, Annie West said:

I am absolutely thrilled and honoured that my work is being kept safe in the Library of Trinity College Dublin. I am hugely grateful to be invited, this is the closest thing to a Lifetime Achievement Award for Illustrators. The thought that my great grandchildren and their own children in the future can go and look at the illustrations in Trinity Library Special Collections is simply wonderful.

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05/24/2024

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Greg Sheaf

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The Provost and Bursar joined the Librarian and Library staff for a tour of the new Interim Research Collections Study Centre in the basement of the Ussher Library  ahead of its opening to readers.

It is the new home to a Joint Research Collections Reading Room for Early Printed Books, Special Collections and Manuscripts & Archives for the duration of the Old Library Redevelopment Project (OLRP). The collections include the Library's oldest and most precious books, maps, manuscripts, and archives, with collections dating from 13th-century BC to the present day. The Glucksman Map Library Reading Room will also reopen alongside the temporary new Study Centre.

As part of the Old Library Redevelopment Project, the Old Library has now been emptied of its collections amounting to over 700,000 items, including 350,000 book volumes.

Librarian & College Archivist, Helen Shenton said:

Significant thought, planning and care has gone into safely moving collections on this scale. The dedication, flexibility and ingenuity of Library staff involved in this effort have been especially remarkable.

The Provost and Bursar were shown around the new space where Research Collections items were on display including those drawn from the Fagel Collection, Medieval Manuscripts Collection and Brendan Kennelly archive as well as maps of her own native Cork.

Provost, Linda Doyle said: 

The decant of material, led by the Library team, and the transfer and opening of the Interim Research Collections Study Centre has been a massive operation, with more than 50 Library staff assisted by up to 40 project assistants. This new Study Centre will be a very helpful support for researchers working with our fantastic collections. It marks a key stage in the Old Library Redevelopment Project.

Bursar & Director of Strategic Innovation, Professor Eleanor Denny thanked all staff involved, including Library, Estates and Facilities and IT Services as well as the design team.

Readers will continue to have access to all library material via this new Interim Research Collections Study Centre during the lifetime of the Old Library Redevelopment Project. They are supervised reading rooms, and reader spaces are reserved for those consulting Research Collections material. The Interim Research Collections Study Centre opened this week to readers. For all details click on the Library website’s opening hours and planning your visit guide.

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