Above Image: The Science Gallery Dublin building, located at the southern end of the Trinity College Dublin campus. Image Credit: The Journal Newspaper
Established in 2008, the Science Gallery Dublin is a non-profit gallery featuring changing exhibitions and events throughout the year. Admission is free, and the building is entirely wheelchair accessible. Opening hours: Currently closed to the public due to COVID-19, generally open Tuesday-Sunday, 10am - 6pm (check website for up-to-date info)
From the outside, the Science Gallery Dublin looks like an unassuming wedge of glass. But inside, the team has done an outstanding job of using the space to explain and explore the world of science. The Gallery has no permanent exhibitions but rather examines an ever-changing selection of topics; some unique to the Dublin branch and others shared with the seven other locations which make up the Science Gallery Network.
The central role of the Science Gallery Dublin (and its counterparts) is to play with ideas and concepts within the world of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths).The exhibitions range from astrology to psychology and emphasize showing a range of perspectives. The exhibitions tend to contain interactive pieces, relying on audience input and engagement. A team of mediators stationed around the rooms are always available to discuss the exhibits. Workshops and guest speakers accompany installations and exhibits.
Having worked in the Science Gallery Dublin gift shop, I was lucky enough to see a range of exhibitions at all stages of creation. The team develops each exhibition with input from scientists, artists, entrepreneurs, designers and more, curating an interdisciplinary collection which both introduces a topic and questions it. My favourite exhibition over recent years has been ‘PLASTIC: Can’t Live With It, Can’t Live Without It’. This exhibition ran for several months, ending in February 2020 and has since been touring Ireland at a number of locations.
The ‘PLASTIC’ exhibition wasn’t the standard denouncement of plastic pollution many visitors expected it to be. Instead, it was an open discussion about the role of plastic in our lives. Some pieces addressed the topic from a chemical background, explaining what plastics are and how they’re made. Others came from a more artistic perspective, such as artist Shih Hsiung Chou’s piece “Oil Painting” (shown below). Of course, a number of pieces criticized the role of plastics in environmental degradation, but others noted the positive side of the cheap, light material. For example, one room featured a continually-running 3-D printer creating a number of medical devices and anatomical models, calling into question the role plastics might play in modern medicine.
Working in the Science Gallery gift shop gave me an interesting perspective from talking to visitors after they’d taken in an exhibition. While some had travelled to Dublin specifically to visit the Gallery, others came in simply because it’s a free, warm building to kill some time on a rainy day. Talking to visitors, I was struck by the fact that they almost always had strong opinions about the pieces, or the exhibitions as a whole. Unlike other museums and galleries where guests may feel that they are passive participants taking in the space, the Science Gallery has a way of making visitors feel that they could agree or disagree with the content. This is the beauty of the Science Gallery: in no way is it a stationary collection of works. The constant rotation of topics means a visitor can go multiple times in a year and be greeted with what seems like a new space each time. Even within an exhibition, interactive pieces and enthusiastic staff mean that each visitor comes away with a unique perspective. Despite taking up just a small sliver of space in Dublin’s busy city centre, the Science Gallery is a uniquely inspiring place which facilitates learning and debates around scientifically topical and sometimes controversial issues. For locals and tourists alike, the Science Gallery is a must-see institution in the heart of the city.
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Maria Cordero is from Cork, Ireland and is currently living in Glasgow. She worked in the gift shop of the Science Gallery Dublin during her undergraduate degree, and loved walking through the exhibitions on her way to work. She’s currently studying Information Management & Preservation at the University of Glasgow and loves all things museum, gallery or library. You can find her on Twitter @MariaLovesABook