Artist Orestes de la Paz demostrates Human Soap at the opening of FAT - It's delicious

Artist Orestes de la Paz demostrates Human Soap at the opening of FAT - It's delicious

In a partnership that goes much deeper than a financial investment, Google Ireland and the Science Gallery have ignited and maintained a brilliant spark, with an ambitious international scaling of the Science Gallery’s offering, driving awareness of the intersection between science and art and strong involvement of Google’s people in the partnership.

When director of the Science Gallery Lynn Scarff recently asked employees to draw up names of people they dealt with in Google Ireland, one of the gallery’s major sponsors, she was overwhelmed by the response.

Team members sent back a long list of names, many of whom Scarff had never dealt with herself. For the director, it highlighted the depth of communication at all levels of both organisations, and the fact that the funding relationship between Google and the Science Gallery goes way beyond financial support.

“It’s created a feeling that we are actually colleagues,” says Scarff. “Partnerships work when people in both organisations are given the freedom to reach out of their own accord.”

Google has been a major sponsor of the Science Gallery since the gallery’s inception in 2008. At that time the tech giant committed to five years’ sponsorship, and in 2013 extended the partnership by a further five years.

With the Science Gallery aiming to “ignite creativity where art and science collide”, and with Google constantly breaking boundaries in its own industry, the relationship was a natural fit, according to David Martin, director of Geo Operations at Google.

“It was natural for us to support a platform for public engagement which aims to re-imagine the future, encouraging young people to appreciate how science and mathematics are fundamental to everyday living and to be a part of this,” he says.

Martin agrees with Scarff that a success of the partnership has been the fact that Google employees are active and engaged in all aspects of the gallery.

“As a Science Gallery board member, I am personally actively involved, and our Dublin Googlers are huge fans of the gallery. You will often see Googlers absorbed in the fascinating, cross-disciplinary exhibitions at the gallery,” he says.

Science Gallery has a corporate membership programme through which more than 250 Google employees hold a membership.

They regularly attend exhibitions and events, are involved in workshops, and contribute ideas. Google also uses the Science Gallery’s meeting spaces for events and meetings, including its secondary school programme and team-building events at the Makeshop – where one Google manager, a non-engineer, once accidentally caused a blackout when he placed his soldering iron on an electric cable.

Oftentimes, Google staff get involved at an individual level. For example, a Google employee came in to talk about a life logging website he created to support people around suicide.

The gallery in turn has received support from Google’s YouTube team in developing its YouTube channel, and has worked with Google staff on improving its appearance on the Google search engine. Google also gets involved in the gallery’s creative process, with any content created being non-commercial.

“This regular contact strengthens ownership of the partnership amongst our employees and gives them a greater understanding of the gallery and what we are trying to achieve together,” says Martin.

A collaborative approach works incredibly well for the partnership, he adds.

“We are happy to contribute ideas and offer our expertise, whether through my work with the Board of Directors or through employee engagement.”

The Science Gallery had 339,000 visitors in 2013, and continues to go from strength to strength, as does its relationship with Google.

Both Martin and Scarff believe the financial and non-financial support given by Google to the gallery has been an important enabler of its success.

“It’s really important that the kind of relationship we have with Google is a long-term partnership. It’s not just a donation towards a specific programme for a limited amount of time. We’ve been working together since 2008 and the length of that partnership is vital to what comes out of it,” says Scarff.

Another aspect of the partnership is Science Gallery International. In 2012, Google gifted the Science Gallery €1 million to help set up Science Gallery International with an ambition to build a global network of Science Galleries.
Science Gallery London is due to open its doors in 2016, and discussions are at advanced stages in New York, Melbourne, Bangalore, and several other cities.

“We will continue to support the great work done right here in Dublin, and we are also very excited about the possibilities that a global network of Science Galleries will create,” says Martin.

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