Hope for Science Gallery’s future as Government intervenes

Simon Harris contacts Trinity provost over closure plan

Talks are set to take place next week between Trinity College Dublin and two Government departments about possible funding that could save the popular Science Gallery on Pearse Street from closing.

In a tweet on Friday, Trinity provost Linda Doyle said she had “just had a really productive call with @SimonHarrisTD and we both agreed to sit down together next week, with other departments and stakeholders, to discuss the future of” the gallery, which the university has decided to close.

A spokeswoman for the Minister for Higher Education said he was “eager to find a solution and to avoid the closure of the Science Gallery”.

It is understood that the Department of Arts, led by Catherine Martin, which provides funding to the gallery, along with other stakeholders will also be involved in the meeting.

News of the gallery’s closure emerged on Thursday, with a meeting of staff convened to relay the news. Trinity has declined to comment on the reasons for the decision, which are believed to relate to its financial viability.

Terrible loss

Dr Patrick Prendergast, who is chairman of Science Gallery International (SGI), an offshoot of the Trinity gallery involving seven other universities – in Atlanta, Bengaluru, Berlin, Detroit, London, Melbourne and Rotterdam – said the closure would be a “terrible loss” to Dublin.

Dr Prendergast, a former Trinity provost, said SGI would continue to operate even if the Science Gallery in Dublin closed.

“My understanding is that Trinity College will continue as a member of Science Gallery International,” he said. “We will have to have a discussion with the other members about what that exactly means, but I can confirm that that is the case.”

He said SGI would be “delighted if Science Gallery Dublin were prosperous and able to continue”, adding that it “presents something of a challenge for SGI to figure out how to take things forward with Science Gallery Dublin closed”.

Dr Doyle is also a member of the board of SGI, which is due to meet in December. SGI is funded by fees from all of its members, and has staff based in Dublin.

Last year Trinity made payments of €254,825 to SGI and received €183,350 for services provided to SGI.

Trinity’s financial statements for the year to the end of September 2020 show the gallery earned income of €552,000, down from €592,000 a year earlier.

Exhibition

The Trinity gallery effectively reopened from lockdown restrictions with an exhibition called Bias, which opened on October 22nd. It is described as an “interactive, thought-provoking exploration of preferences, prejudices and digital equity” and is due to run until February 28th.

First opened in 2008, the gallery is described on its website as a “living experiment” that “ignites creativity and discovery where science and art collide” and encourages young people to learn through their interests. A team of 16 employees is listed on the website, led by acting director Gerard McHugh.

Reacting to news of the gallery’s closure, its first chairman Chris Horn, an Irish Times columnist, expressed his “extreme disappointment” at the decision. In a post on Twitter, another early contributor, Prof Aoife McLysaght, said closing the gallery was an “awful mistake”.