Sunday, 27 May 2018

Hello from Ireland

My blogging has been suffering ever since I started posting on Instagram, but I am about to make up for lost time during my 6 weeks in Ireland. Many of my readers will already know of my interest in seaweed, or more particularly, seaweed albums of the 19th century. This obsession started in 2016 when I had an arts residency at the NMA in Canberra, and fell in love with an anonymous seaweed album.

The Port Philip seaweed album, NMA

This obsession lead to the discovery of many more albums by the same collector and I am now in Ireland to undertake further research on him as artist in residence at the Ulster Museum Herbarium in Belfast. I will also be doing an arts residency at Cill Rialaig near Ballinskelligs on the south west coast of Ireland, which starts at the end of this week. A big thankyou at this point to artsACT for supporting my travel to Ireland to undertake this residency.

I touched down in Dublin two days ago and have been walking around getting a feel for the city and its ambience. The predominant matter to hand has been the vote yesterday on the referendum to repeal the 8th Ammendment of the Constitution which bans abortion in all cases except to save the life of the mother. This is a vote to repeal, not a vote on abortion as such, and counting the votes starts today, but watching the news last night there were many counties with 50-75% turnout to vote, although voting was still open till 10pm, long after I had crashed!

Trinity College Botany Bulding

My first full day yesterday was spent in the Trinity College Herbarium where I had organised to view their seaweed albums. This was a rare and wonderful opportunity, and although my collector was not represented there were several other intriguing albums to compare and contrast with our Australian ones.

Trinity College Herbarium

Several of the 19th Century Seaweed albums in the collection

A page showing some beautiful red seaweed

Trinity College Herbarium was the academic home of the eminent Irish phycologist William Henry Harvey. Harvey notably wrote the 5 volume Phycologia Australica, after spending two years from 1854-6 collecting over 20,000 Australian seaweeds. And yesterday I was privileged to handle his handwritten letters and his Traveling Set of Australian seaweeds. This has to be a 12 on a scale of 1-10 in amazing experiences, to know that my hands were touching the seaweeds he picked up from our shores all those years ago. I am so grateful to Staff at TCD for allowing me access entrusting me with these historical documents and objects. And don't worry, I will be going back on Tuesday to see the Book of Kells!

The Herbarium Library also contained the volumes of “The Nature-Printed British Sea-Weeds” by Bradbury and Evans, published in 1859. These intricate prints were created using the unique “nature-printed” process whereby a plant is pressed into a plate of soft lead, leaving an impression from which an electrotype is made. The resultant prints are incredibly detailed and realistic, capturing the fine detail of each seaweed, and it is possible to see and feel the raised surface of the printed inks on the paper.
Front page of one of the Bradbury Nature Printed Seaweed books

A gorgeous Delesseria sinuosa.

Punctaria latifolia

Sphacearia scoparia

Its been a great first couple of days here sightseeing, walking, walking and trying to decide whether the national pastime is smoking or drinking....! Off to the National Botanic Gardens tomorrow to see more suprises in their herbarium.

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