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Art Collections - introduction

We curate and manage the extensive University Art Collections of over 2,500 artworks, including paintings, drawings, prints, photography, digital media, sculptures and silver on display and in use across campus, in up to 500 locations.

By displaying works in locations with high footfall, that are open to or visible by the public, as well as quieter areas used by individuals and specialised research groups, we aim to bring stimulating visual creativity into daily life for as many as possible.

At Trinity College Dublin, the learning environment is complemented by many academic collections and museums and galleries, including Ireland's first-ever University Art Gallery, The Douglas Hyde Gallery, and The Science Gallery. Our multi-disciplinary collections and exhibitions are used as platforms for debate, for the initiation and exchange of ideas, and bringing people together.

We at the Art Collections are part of the Office of the College Secretary, under The University Provost's Directorate.


The Trinity College art collections are made up of painting, print, sculpture, and statuary, with a significant historical focus on portraiture. The idea of a modern art collection was initiated in 1959-60 by George Dawson (1927-2004), former Professor of Genetics, with the help of the students. A ‘College Gallery’ picture hire scheme was introduced, whereby original Irish and international artworks along with original prints and artist’s posters were acquired for display in student and staff rooms on campus. This encouraged an interest in, and a critical eye for, modern and contemporary art. The historic and modern collections consist of approximately 2,000 artworks distributed throughout public and private locations in the main and satellite campuses. They can be found in the Provost’s House, the Old Library, the Dining Hall, the Arts and Hamilton Buildings, schools, departments, key offices, and the teaching facilities at St. James’ and Tallaght Hospitals. The College Silver collection is also under the remit of the University Art Collections Curator.

Use of collections in Teaching, Research, and Outreach

The 20th century introduced the study of fine art at Trinity College. Like many universities worldwide, the 1960s witnessed the establishment of a Department of the History of Art and Architecture. By 1966, Professor George Dawson’s promotion of the interests and challenges of modern and contemporary art had inspired a formal education programme in art and architectural appreciation headed by Professor Anne Crookshank, from the Ulster Museum. During the 1960s and 1970s, Dawson also recruited an informal cross-disciplinary group of volunteer students, the ‘College Gallery Committee’. This committee staged exhibitions of emerging and established artists both on and off campus, purchasing artworks, and encouraging discerning appreciation.

In 1967, the Berkeley Library opened with a specially designed Exhibition Hall by Paul Koralek, part funded by The Gulbenkian Foundation. The 1969 Pablo Picasso exhibition, staged while the artist was still alive, was the first display of his art in Ireland. The university forum demonstrated an ability to showcase creativity that was still too challenging for external cultural institutions. By 1978, The Douglas Hyde Gallery opened its doors at Trinity College, championed mainly by Professor Dawson with the help of key alumni and the College Board. The gallery welcomed multidisciplinary exhibitions until the early 1980s when the Arts Council promoted the current focused contemporary art exhibition programme that has shaped Irish visual arts practice.

In 2007, the post of Curator was established, continuing in a more formal capacity the dedicated work of past curators, academics, and administrator. This has enabled preparation for the integration of the art collections as a formal resource for the core business of College. This includes involvement in the planning process for the new College-wide Strategic Plan. In 2010, celebratory events for the 50th anniversary of the modern collections began a programme of outreach to the campus audience and the wider community.

Collections Links

The art collections have links with many of the other College collections, mostly through portraits of significant researchers in the history of the College. There are also potential links that could be created in more abstract terms through interdisciplinary interests in the creative process, subject matter, technique, and the science and technology of media used by artists.

Beyond the university, works by the artists represented are to be found in the collections of the National Gallery of Ireland, The Dublin City Gallery – the Hugh Lane, the Irish Museum of Modern Art, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon, and many other international collections.