Not many universities have a top cultural attraction available on campus, at Trinity we’ve got more than one! The Book of Kells may attract over half a million visitors each year, however there’s a new, modern attraction at the other end of campus. Since its opening in 2008, over 1 million people have visited Science Gallery, many of them Trinity students popping in to see the latest exhibit in between classes.
The concept of Science Gallery is to be ‘a place where science and art collide’, and through this some incredible concepts have emerged. I remember seeing the ‘Bit.Fall’ piece (part of the surface tension exhibit, pictured below) during my first year at Trinity and being amazed that such an incredible piece of engineering was there on campus for me to stumble upon on my way back from class.
The best bit about Science Gallery, is the fact that its exhibits aren’t stuffy. They are each based around a thought-provoking or fun theme; which a range of artistic, engineers and scientists each present their perspective on. Many of the concepts are interactive, and word spreads quickly on campus if there is a new piece of technology to try out. A couple years ago ‘Game: the future of play’ was almost always full as students used the opportunity to play games for free on campus, like the strangely addictive one below. (Did I not mention that Science Gallery was free to visit!)
As part of Trinity’s ‘International Science Gallery Network’, the exhibit has close ties with college and regularly collaborates with students. The facility runs the ‘Idea Translation Lab’ in Hilary term as part of Trinity’s broad curriculum. Last year undergraduate TCD students studying in science, humanities and art were partnered with industrial and product design students from the National College of Art Design to develop projects relating to the field of synthetic biology. Not only were the student projects included within the exhibition, the best ones were developed in Paris for a further week as part of the ‘Studiolab Project’.
Whether you have the opportunity to work with Science Gallery, or if (like me) you just like popping in to see the latest exhibit, there is always lots to see and do. The gallery has no permanent exhibits, so every time a new one is launched the space looks completely different. Recently ‘Fat: it’s delicious’ (an exhibit which looked at fat from various angles and reconsidered our preconceived notions about eating fat) was replaced by ‘Strange Weather: forecasts from the future’. I haven’t had a chance to see the new exhibit (ironically I’ve been put off going today because of the rain), but a look online at the concepts show it’s going to be great fun. They’ve got a machine which allows you to watch a droplet of rain hover in mid-air, and internet poems about the weather have been compiled from Tumblr posts which use #Weather.
Overall, I’m not surprised that Science Gallery’s Director was awarded ‘Great Science Communicator’ prize at the European Open Forum this month. Every exhibit in Science Gallery allows you to reconsider a preconceived notion, or showcases innovations which push science and engineering one step further. Science is always making new discoveries and developments, and (in my opinion) exhibits like Science Gallery that allow the general public to gain a deeper understanding of these advances are just as important to education as the universities (like Trinity) which house them.