A multimedia exhibition entitled STEP Through the Looking Glass: Stories Told of Experimental Processes will be launched this Saturday, 06 August 2002 in Grennan Mill Craft School, as part of the Kilkenny Arts Festival and the 40 Mill Years celebration. 

The exhibition, which is funded through the SFI Discover Programme and the UCD Wellcome Institutional Strategic Support Fund, uses selected personal and scientific objects as unique and curious ways to spark conversation and tell a science story. It is a collaboration between Lorna Donlon, scientists at University College Dublin (UCD), and the patient advocates who work with them. 

Lorna Donlon was a student in Grennan Mill Craft School in 1984 and subsequently taught weaving there for 12 years. She is an award-winning artist and tapestry weaver who undertook an artistic residency in the UCD Conway Institute during the pandemic, having recently graduated with a degree in Cell and Molecular Biology from UCD’s School of Biology and Environmental Science. 

The idea for this project stems from ‘Scientists’ Stories from the Conway Cabinets of Everyday Curiosities’ that arose from the initial phase of Lorna’s residency. As a way of introducing herself to the researchers, Lorna mounted an installation in the entrance foyer of UCD Conway Institute. The 'Cabinets of Everyday Curiosities’ housed displays of ordinary, everyday objects that spoke of the lives of people in Lorna’s life, placed without label or explanation. These objects acted as storytelling devices.

Researchers were invited to view the cabinets before being encouraged to install their own ‘everyday object’ in exchange for one of the artists. This process of mutual exchange continued until all objects belonged to the research community representing their daily lives in scientific research. 

STEP Through the Looking Glass is an extension of this residency and brings new, transportable and modular ‘Cabinets of Everyday Curiosities’ into public settings around Ireland for display until the end of this year. These cabinets have been filled with objects in a collaboration between the artist, scientists working on COVID-19-related or clinical research, and patients involved in cancer research at this biomedical research institute. 

Professor Helen Roche, Director, UCD Conway Institute is one of the 12 scientists involved in the project. “It has been fascinating to work with Lorna on this project. Scientists and artists are inherently curious by nature but in very different ways. I started looking at objects lying around my office and lab in a whole new light.”

Dr Ruth Freeman, Director of Science for Society at Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) welcomed the launch, saying: “SFI is delighted to support this project, which sees everyday objects in science being used as storytelling devices. The exhibition will give the public a unique glimpse into the lives of the people behind the research as well as the research itself. Projects such as this, supported by the SFI Discover Programme, help us to provide important platforms and spaces for researchers and artists to come together, learn from each other and create new insights that can benefit society as a whole.” 

The exhibition features large format photographs of the 12 scientists and two patient advocates. Audiences can also listen to the conversations between Donlon, the scientists and those patient advocates who are involved with the Patient Voice in Cancer Research initiative. 

The launch event will feature Lorna Donlon in conversation with Dr Nicola Fletcher, Professors Catherine Godson, William Gallagher, Breandan Kennedy and Helen Roche with patient advocates, Tom Hope and Ciara McNamara.

The exhibition launch is a ticketed event. Free registration on Eventbrite:  


The exhibition will run until 14 August in Grennan Mill and then at selected locations nationwide.

Details will be on the exhibition website https://stepartexhibition.com which will be live from 05 August 2022.