What You Maybe Meant to Keep

Irish Political Ephemera

The National Print Museum has opened its major exhibition for the spring this year, What You Maybe Meant to Keep.

In association with the website Irish Election Literature and the Irish Left Archive, the museum will host an exhibition of political promotional materials: posters, pamphlets, flyers and election leaflets, from the 1970s onwards. The collection is harvested from the donations of politicians and members of the public to Irish Election Literature and the Irish Left Archive.

It opened on 25th March and is running until 27th May, there will also be a number of talks given by the curators on April 3rd, 10th, 13th and on May 1st.

NewsFour spoke with Alan Kinsella, one of the curators of the exhibition and operator of the Irish Political Literature blog. We wanted to know how the exhibit came about. “It was simple really.

A friend of mine is on the curatorial committee of the Print Museum and he suggested it.”

Although Alan’s collection is extensive and still growing with every election, local, European or otherwise, he has no particular political allegiances he wanted to discuss. The nature of his interest is broader than party politics. “It’s history. It’s political history. I think I was maybe 11 or 12 when I started collecting. This would have been the early eighties. My parents went to vote and the whole family would go along. Polling stations were busy in those days, unlike now where there are rules determining how far away a poster or canvasser has to be. I just happened to end up holding all of the various flyers and leaflets and hanging on to them.”

A successive few years of by-elections and similar events swelled his collection and he continues to the present day. Asked to comment on differences between political literature now and then, he explained that particular periods are defined by particular themes. “In the eighties, there was a lot of emphasis on trust, on high taxes, on emigration. These are all themes that have come around again. Now though, political flyers are more uniform.

People running for local office, they might not have huge budgets so they will use the same template as each other. Also, things are more centrally controlled and there’s less of a cult of the leader. Bertie, Charlie, Garret, you know it’s significant when the leaders are on first name terms with the electorate.”
Image courtesy Alan Kinsella.

By Rúairí Conneely