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13 December 2018

Science Gallery London – where art and science collide

Researchers at the School of Education, Communication & Society investigate whether Science Gallery London can engage with its 15 -25 year old target group


Built on a site previously occupied by a branch of a well-known fast-food chain, Science Gallery London, located within the Guys Campus in SE1, opened its doors to the public in September. But what sort of public is the Science Gallery attracting to its inaugural exhibition “Hooked”, which focuses on all forms of addiction from smartphones and sugar to PlayStation and the higher than average divorce rates in the coastal towns of England.  Have these aspirations been realised?  Is its audience the same as its predecessor’s? 

Science Gallery hope that it is! Their primary aim is to engage with young people in the local area. They want their visitors to be the 15-25-year olds who live, work or study in the boroughs of Southwark and Lambeth. They believe that these young people represent the talent and diversity of London, and that their views can help shape and guide the gallery’s exhibits and programmes. Science Gallery London is now half way through its first exhibition – Hooked (runs till 27th January), but they have been involved in public engagement work with local communities for several years already.

ECS student Sabine Schneider-Maunoury studied youth involvement with Science Gallery as part of her dissertation for the MA in Education in Arts and Cultural Settings. She examined the implementation of the gallery’s aims for youth involvement in curatorial decision-making and found that programmes for youth participation and involvement were well-designed and managed. She suggested that more is needed to ensure that youth engagement is fully realised, but highlighted the many constraints preventing this from happening, not least the relative infancy of the programme.

ECS lecturer Heather King has also been involved with Science Gallery, sharing findings from the Enterprising Science research which explored the concept of science capital. In a nutshell, the concept of science capital encapsulates all the science-related knowledge, attitudes, experiences and social contacts that an individual may have. The concept also provides a lens for understanding why some people may feel ‘sciencey’ and others not.  Science Gallery hopes to offer visitors a space where they feel comfortable engaging with science content. Over time, such experiences can contribute to a young person’s science capital and may result in their continued involvement in science in the future.

It was shown in a survey carried out by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation in 2009 that the museums and galleries that successfully engaged with the public had shifted the role of their community partners from beneficiaries (or supplicants) to active agents and partners of the museum. 

The building on the corner of Guy’s historic courtyard is no longer serving burgers and chips. Instead Science Gallery London is offering the young people of south London a far richer diet of science, art, and the chance to get involved.

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Science Gallery London
Science Gallery London