Today, College announced that it has commissioned four artists to create four new sculptures for the Long Room in the Old Library.
The first to be commissioned in over a century, the new Long Room sculptures will also be the first to represent women scholars.
The four artists chosen to create the busts are Maudie Brady, Rowan Gillespie, Vera Klute and Guy Reid.
There are currently 40 marble busts all representing men in the Old Library. This collection began in 1973.
The busts will portray scientist Rosalind Franklin, mathematician Ada Lovelace, women’s right advocate Mary Wollstonecraft and Irish folklorist, dramatist and founder of the Abbey Theatre, Augusta Gregory.
College has chosen Brady to represent Ada Lovelace, Gillespie to represent Mary Wollstonecraft, Klute to represent Rosalind Franklin and Reid to represent Augusta Gregory.
According to College, the four artists were chosen after an “extensive national and international shortlisting process” by a panel chaired by College Librarian Helen Shenton. This panel also included Director of the National Gallery of Ireland Sean Rainbird and Cultural Director of the Department of Foreign Affairs Eugene Downes.
Nine artists were shortlisted to submit maquettes of their proposed designs, based on which Brady, Gillespie, Klute and Reid were selected. Shenton said that the panel were “extremely impressed” by “the perceptive grasp of the personalities and intellectual achievements of each of the women scholars; and by the understanding of the unique architectural context of the historic, sculpture-lined Long Room”.
Speaking on the announcement, Provost Patrick Prendergast said that the addition of the new sculptures to the Long Room “is an important step – but only a step – in further recognising the great achievements of women in the world of scholarship and learning”.
He continued saying the new busts “will serve as an important signal to all who enter the Long Room that we will try to champion excellence in all its diversity”.
In 2014, American journalist Mona Eltahawy highlighted the lack of female representation in the Long Room after a visit to College and called on the University Philosophical Society (The Phil) to protest. In a tweet, she wrote: “Dear Trinity College: why [are] all busts in library of men? Both Ireland’s women presidents studied here. Agitate @tcdphil!”
In September 2020, the Provost invited nominations from students, staff and alumni for the first female scholar to be commemorated in the Long Room. He said the move aimed to make Trinity’s public spaces “more representative of our diversity”.
In November, a panel chaired by Prendergast selected the four women from a list of over 500 nominees.
However, in November The Journal revealed that some College staff objected to the proposal to include women as a gesture, having obtained emails under Freedom of Information Act.
One staff member wrote: “Should we admit this is a gesture and we know including one or two [sculptures] isn’t exactly going to right the wrongs of history, but that it is that – history – and we are proposing to make a change for the present and future generations?”
It is expected that the new sculptures will be unveiled in late 2022.