Dunsink Lane, Dublin 15, D15 XR2R

# 8 Pizza and Public Outreach

By Tess Tangney, Gabriel Finneran and Oscar O’Hara

Started by Tess

The day had finally come, tonight we were opening up Dunsink to the public. Unfortunately it was set to thunderstorm all day so we were a bit worried that not many people would show up to the event. But as the day wore on we realised that, as usual, the weather forecast was completely wrong, apparently “Thunderstorms all day” really means ten minutes of heavy rain in the afternoon followed by a few clouds. With only a few hours till the visitors would arrive we set about putting the finishing touches on the displays. Then the hoover and dusting cloths were brought out for a finally clean of the whole place. As evening closed in Peter announced that pizza was on its way, we scattered around the house looking for places to change into more respectable clothes and wash the dust and dirt from our hands. The sound of the delivery car coming up the driveway drew everyone to the Meridian room with rumbling tummies. The pizza and chips raised everyone’s spirits as we went through a final brief for the night. 

Unusually for Ireland people started to arrive early instead of the customary 10 minutes late. We threw on name tags and hi-vis vests as we set out to welcome people and guide them through the house. I rushed off to the Eclipse room where I found people already looking around, introducing myself I invited questions and was quickly bombarded with a variety. Sharing the stories of Annie Maunder’s life was very rewarding, most people had never heard of her before and were fascinated that such a prominent female Irish scientist had been forgotten by history. However the focus of the room was definitely the 2-by-1 meter big solar eclipse photo, it drew your attention the second you walked in. People were impressed by it even without really knowing what they were looking at, after being told that the photo was taken a hundred years ago using the strange looking contraption beside it (the Grubb Heliostat) they were in even more awe. The picture was doing exactly what we intended, it was drawing people in and prompting loads of questions. 

Besides showing our work off to the public, the night was also a chance for us to show our friends and family what we had been up to all summer. While my parents weren’t able to make it, I was lucky enough to have one of my friends and my “other half” cycle all the way there to see it. Finally I was able to show them this place which I had fallen in love with and it was great to see them enjoying the space too.

The highlight of the night for me was definitely the conversations I had with the people who wandered in. From inquisitive kids who asked questions far beyond their years to hearing stories of the moon landings from people who watched it live, the night was full of both reminiscing and looking to the future.



Continued by Gabriel

I was stationed in the Lunar Room, which had been utterly transformed in just 24hrs from boardroom to exhibition space. Once everyone started to arrive I rapidly set up the projector and the room was filled with the sounds and images of the Apollo missions. We had a wide range of exhibits for all ages, from a cardboard model of the lunar module ‘Eagle’ (loaned to us by Peter) to a replica of the Irish Independent from the day the landing took place. We also had a projection of the moon on a globe which we had artistically placed inside the lunar module. The younger visitors were particularly enthralled and I had some great questions to answer, it was fantastic to see these youngsters so excited about astronomy. 


I then met some of the Irish Astronomical Society volunteers and after showing them the Paris Observatory Atlas of the Moon from 1904, we had a great time searching for the three small craters named after the Apollo 11 astronauts. After the talks on DIAS’s lunar work there were even more visitors and the atmosphere in the room was electric. My parents had come along on the night and it was great to show them all of the research and discoveries I had made along the way. It had been a long journey gathering up all of the info over seven weeks and thinking about displays and presentation so it was cathartic to emerge from the bubble and reveal it to the public.

 The posters in the lunar room had been falling down regularly just before the night began but mercifully, several rolls of double sided tape later, they stayed firmly fixed to the wall all night long. 


One story that proved particularly popular was the loss of the moon rock in Finglas Dump which solicited several laughs and shocked expressions from all. The rock was lost after a fire in 1977 and has not been seen since!


Continued by Oscar

The night left me the curator of the Hamilton room, once the reception it had undergone its very own operation transformation. It now resembled a recreation of Hamilton’s own work space. The room was built in the hope of telling the tales of his genius and eccentric quirks through the important artifacts scattered around the room. The festival was aptly named highlighting the atmosphere of the event. Each person I spoke to, lost wandering around eyes glazed over with curiosity, was ready to throw heaps of questions my way. It was a great opportunity to see the public slowly begin to develop and share the love that we had found for the place, more and more with each story. It was a surreal experience telling them of our adventures finding Hamilton’s notes or de Valera’s signature, you could almost see shivers going down their spines as they realised the significance of what they were looking at. My night was complete, when children, grandparents and everyone in between, where left in shock at the prospects of Dunsink, I felt they were proud of what we had created over the last seven weeks and were not only keen to return but to get involved.