Trinity College Dublin

Skip to main content.

Top Level TCD Links

Volunteer Student College Gallery Committee

Every year a group of approximately 20 students from many different disciplines assist the Curator to stage the College Gallery art hire scheme. The students also get involved with different activities relating to the collections during the year, such as tours and exhibitions. During the Summer vacation, students from the committee get the opportunity to work on internships which have previously been generously funded by The Trinity College Association and Trust.

Feedback on involvement with the committee and the internships ...

Carolyn Kelly, TCD Art History graduate; Assistant to the Curator for the 50th Anniversary Celebrations (2010-2011); Curatorial and Collections Management Assistant (2013-2015)

Carolyn Kelly
I have always preferred to study modern art, and specialised in it during my final year of my Undergraduate degree – but working with the College Collection initiated by George was my first intimate introduction to contemporary Irish artists. While serving on the committee in 2008 I fell in love with the work of Micheal Farrell, and procured a piece by him for a friend who had entrusted her selection to me. I visited her room several times that year, and each time marvelled at this beautiful pencil drawing to which she awoke each morning. In 2009, this same friend was fortunate enough to have Barrie Cooke’s ‘The Irish Elk’ hanging in her dismal room in Goldsmith Hall. The Elk dominated the small space, but she loved it all the more for that, bringing life and dynamism into her bleak, blue quarter. She named the fantastic creature Barry, and swears to have bid him ‘Good morning!’ every day for the year! I was beyond envious of such a privilege. Yet this is the wonder of the scheme which George Dawson founded in Trinity College and which is today devotedly overseen by the College Curator, Catherine Giltrap – one can become intimately acquainted and attached to a work, seeing it as one’s own, unique to their College life; the Modern Art Collection in Trinity College is allowed to enhance and alter one’s College experience in a way that few other institutions would ever allow. … Fifty years on, while working with Catherine Giltrap in preparation for this Anniversary, I have found that I share many of George’s artistic values. I believe in the power of art as a unifying force among a disparate body of people. Inspired by my experiences working with the College Curator over the last year, and by George’s initiatives in encouraging art as a means to bridge gaps between the young and old, the Science student and the Arts student, the Academic and his pupil, I encouraged the DU Visual Arts Society’s first ‘Exhibition of Artworks by the Staff and Students of Trinity College’, while acting as Chairperson of the Society in 2009/2010. The show brought together a vast array of members of the College community, offering them a fresh forum for the discussion of art within Trinity’s walls - something George was renowned for.

Kevin Oliver, TCD Final Year Art History student – Summer Vacation Paid Intern for the 50th Anniversary Celebrations, 2010

Kevin Oliver
When the prospect of the twelve week ‘Art in Action’ internship presented itself, I was genuinely excited about getting to work with the collection, witnessing on-going conservation and developing a more thorough understanding of the collection’s history.  As an undergraduate, the internship afforded the prospect of developing practical transferable skills and allowed for a tangible comprehension of curatorship in practice.  Working as a research assistant in preparation for the exhibition projects in both the Douglas Hyde Gallery and in the Royal Hibernian Academy has allowed for a glimpse, and a contextualisation, of a succinct period, where foresight and valour in the arts abounded in college and opened the eyes of so many. It seems to me that the attribute of Professor Dawson’s character that persists through the various ‘recollections’, was his staunch belief and encouragement of students’ instinct in aesthetic – an attribute that thankfully still prevails in teaching the History of Art in college. It has been a privilege to contribute, if only in a small way, to these celebrations.    

Kirsten Southard, TCD English graduate – Summer Vacation Paid Intern, 2009
Working as one of four Assistants to the Curator, funded by the Trinity Association and Trust, allowed unprecedented access to the works in, and history of, the collection. I had previously completed two internships in art museums in America, which meant I knew how to handle artworks and about the kind of paperwork involved in looking after these objects; but I wasn’t prepared for the breadth of experience I’d get from this job! … Fun was not completely out of the question during this time though, as we printed up t-shirts for the big day, our backs adorned with slogans like “Assistant Curator” for us four, and “Cat the Curator” for our boss. We triumphed in the end!

Cian O’Carroll, TCD Art History graduate – Summer Vacation Paid Intern, 2009
That the Curator herself had been a student of the College showed me that it was possible for a student to change the way they related to the College - the system did not have to be all top-down, rather students could contribute directly to the College themselves, working jointly on the project with staff. Furthermore, one was working to better the situation of art within the College, my own environment - what more could appeal to a student of art history? There was a sense also of getting back to basics - the simple act of caring about art itself, which is so much easier when the art-object is right in front of you or where there is a sense of shared ownership. … In faculties far outside the Arts one found a passionate interest in artworks within their buildings and in the portraiture of notable figures in their history. We didn't realise it, but art was connecting seemingly disparate sections of the whole College - the stuff wasn't just seen as wallpaper! … Finally, the real treat for me was in digitally archiving and databasing material related to the College Collections. Little things like internal correspondence and memorandums demonstrated the degree of passion for, and personal involvement with, the Collections that extends back to at least the creation of the Modern Collection by Prof. Dawson. In this, things came full circle. All the positives I had assumed a part of the Collections I had found going back as far as the paper trail itself; the continuity really was there, and I am glad to have encountered what I did, and to have contributed what I could.

Mieke van Embden - former Summer Vacation Paid Intern, 2008
It was a privilege to work with Catherine on the College’s Modern Collection, and for me, a huge learning curve. I was so excited at the prospect, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t secretly harbour ideas of acting as some sort of art sleuth who would be running around campus, discovering long-forgotten artistic gems left hanging in dark corridors and wedged between dusty filing cabinets and ageing walls. … Most fascinating was having the opportunity to get to grips with Prof. Dawson’s private collection and its subsequent donation to the College. That Catherine and her team have got the Loan Scheme up and running successfully, and reintegrated these works into a very much living and breathing part of the College Community’s daily life is testament to the dedication and hard work that has been poured into Trinity’s art in recent years; through the grapevine I hear of students across the faculties taking a real interest in artwork right across campus, in a way I never did when I was a student.  More than all others, I am pleased to say that Pomodoro’s restored Sfera con Sfera has made an impact. I can still remember hauling heavy power tools across the cobbles and standing in the dreary summer rain to make sure Il Maestro’s restoration team had all they required. Watching the sphere come painstakingly back to life, bit by bit, was all the proof I needed that the artworks form an integral part of the College’s identity. And the reward for carrying those power tools? Being one of the first to spin that sphere!


Last updated 10 January 2018 catherine.giltrap@tcd.ie (Email).