The Friday Interview: Dr Michael John Gorman, TCD Science Gallery

29 Feb 2008

Trinity College Dublin recently opened its new Science Gallery, the first of its kind in the world. Dr Michael John Gorman (pictured) is the gallery’s director.

How did the idea for the Science Gallery come about?
Professor Mike Coey suggested that if TCD was going to develop its new research facility in the area of nanotechnology (CRANN), it would be very important to develop a new way to engage the public with science and technology.

How is it funded?
The earned income of the Science Gallery will be quite low with respect to its costs so, for the project to be sustainable in the long term, it will need an ongoing partnership between government, industry and the university sector.

What will people see in the Science Gallery?
We’ll have a changing programme of exhibitions, events, installations and workshops. There’s no permanent exhibition. We’ll be having public experiments in our shop window on Pearse Street and debates on controversial and current issues.

An important aspect of the Science Gallery is that it’s not just about what you might see but who you might meet. You might get a fashion designer talking to a nanotechnologist, for example. A lot of innovation happens when you get ideas from different areas colliding. We want it to be a place where those conversations happen.

What audience are you aiming for?
It’s open to everyone but we’re especially aiming it at 15-25 year-olds. Young adults with raw talent in the area of science and technology will have an opportunity to show off their ideas and meet somebody who can make those ideas a reality, for example, a venture capitalist or somebody from an established company.

We want to create a community around the gallery, people who come back again and again, and free admission facilitates that. We’re keen to offer opportunities for social interaction and to blow apart the concept of the ivory tower in science.

What criteria must exhibits meet?
It will be a very open curatorial model. Through brainstorming with a diverse group of people, from business professionals to transition-year students, we come up with major themes and then put out a call for more specific project suggestions.

Our first exhibition is Lightwave and visitors can write LED graffiti, play Pong on a building and experiment with the colour vision of a swarm of bees. In April, we house the Techno Threads exhibition, which is about the interplay between technology and fashion.

Galleries are normally associated with art. How do you fit science and technology into that space?
There’s the opportunity to get involved, which you don’t expect when you go to an art gallery. A lot of galleries and museums have this idea you should be quiet, whereas we’re hoping to be a place that provokes conversations.

By Niall Byrne