First look: Construction to begin on new Mathematics Gallery

Published 10:00am 4 July 2022

First look: Construction to begin on new Mathematics Gallery
Words by Ashleigh Howarth

A new Mathema Gallery that is set to be built in Ocean View will be a huge plus for tourism and education, according to owners Dr Calvin and Rosemary Irons.

Construction is set to begin on the gallery this week, which will house rare mathematical artefacts, artworks and interactive digital displays, as well as provide hands-on activities such as worksheets and games for visitors to test their brains.

It is hoped the gallery will be open by the end of the year and cater for local schools as a destination for excursions, as well as the public.

Speaking to Moreton Daily, Dr Calvin said he and his wife, who both taught at QUT for more than three decades, wanted to share their love of mathematics with the wider community.

“As mathematics educators, Rosemary and I want everyone to enjoy learning about mathematics. Mathematics is ever evolving, and new ideas are constantly created in our modern world,” Dr Calvin said.

“We aim to create a learning experience that is accessible to young children in primary school as well as adults and people with an interest in high level mathematics.

“Our intention for the exhibits and activities are to be enjoyable, challenging in a fun way and most importantly be accessible to a wide audience.

“We hope visitors can walk away from an experience at the gallery thinking “wow I did not realise that was what mathematics is all about”.

While there are museums which include sections on mathematics, Dr Calvin believes this will be a special one-of-a-kind gallery, especially for Australia.

“There are a few sole purpose mathematics museums in the world. The most famous is probably MOMA in New York,” he said.

“Other mathematics museums can be found in Europe but generally, these stress rather high-level mathematics without much explanation which is then not accessible to everyone.

“Often mathematics is seen as hard, intimidating, or exclusive to ‘gifted’ individuals.

“We believe that mathematics is everywhere and that everyone can do well in mathematics with the right learning approach.

“We chose to use the word ‘gallery’ in our title because there is a strong visual aspect to the displays and other content. We aim for the content to tell a story.”

See the gallery below 

Expand your mind

The Mathema Gallery will house thousands of items for the public to peruse, many of which come from the private collection of the owners.

“Calvin and I were not blessed with children – no one to inherit our thousands of books about mathematics. Thus, we needed a place for everyone to view, learn and discover mathematics,” Rosemary said.

Dr Calvin says he is excited to welcome visitors when the doors open later this year.

“For the opening, there will be many visual items that show the historical links that connect the mathematics we use today to the mathematics used in ancient times.

“This exhibit will be a historical, geographical, and visual tour of six early civilisations that contributed to our mathematics today.”

Some of the key displays will include:

  • The Hand of Plato (sculpture): The gallery will showcase an original sculptural artwork by the esteemed Dr Rhyl Hinwood AM. The artwork is currently in production and will show the hand of Plato with each of the five Platonic Solids balanced on a different fingertip. The Platonic Solids are geometrically sacred objects and have fascinated mathematicians and non-mathematicians alike for many centuries. Early descriptions of the solids likened them to the fundamental elements of nature: fire, air, earth, water and the universe itself. More information about the Platonic Solids will be made accessible to learn at the gallery. The sculpturer, Dr Rhyl Hinwood, is one of Brisbane’s most famous sculptors who is known for many works in Brisbane and the coat of Arms in Parliament House Canberra.
  • Interactive Wall: A large interactive touchscreen nearly four metres long will feature inside the gallery. This interactive piece will have multiple functions but mainly used to display a timeline showing key milestones in mathematics history. They are currently developing software that will allow users to touch various buttons on the screen to access photos, videos and text information to learn more of different eras and developments of mathematics. The screen will be used by multiple people at once.
  • Galley activity worksheets: Visitors will be able to interact further using paper and pencil activities provided in the form of gallery activity worksheets to complete as they explore the gallery displays. These are written for use by primary and secondary school students as well as all adults. They are designed to be an enjoyable challenge that is also ‘user friendly.’
  • Library: The gallery will also have one of the largest libraries of mathematics books in the country. It will have a collection of contemporary books published within the last 100 years as well as a collection of around 1,800 rare books with some of them dating back to the 1600s. Borrowing will probably not be possible but viewing and studying onsite will be available.
First look: Construction to begin on new Mathematics Gallery
Above: Dr Calvin and Rosemary Irons with some of their precious artefacts that will be on display in the gallery.

A dream come true

Dr Calvin and Rosemary have long dreamt of creating the Mathema Gallery in Moreton Bay, with the idea for the gallery first thought of five years ago.

“The gallery building itself was in the back of our minds five years ago, but the actual start was making the decision near the end of 2019,” Dr Calvin said.

“Our first meeting with a building designer was in February 2020. The journey has taken two-and-a-half years of constant planning work with the biggest hurdle being the realignment of the entrance on Mt Mee Road.

“Road upgrades on Mt Mee Road will take place at the entrance of the Ocean View Estates Winery as that entrance will also be used for the Mathema Gallery site. A new turn lane will be added to create a safer section of road for motorists.”

The couple chose to build the gallery in Ocean View because they bought two parcels of land at the location in 1993.

“Gradually, the larger block (110 acres) became what is now Ocean View Estates Winery. This is now a very well-known destination for food, wine, and its setting.

“The 40-acre adjoining block was never included as part of the winery complex, so we are now developing it for Mathema Gallery. The gallery will be a 500 m2 building with some outdoor activities related of course to mathematics.”

First look: Construction to begin on new Mathematics Gallery
Above: Rosemary and Dr Calvin Irons with Mathema Gallery graphic designer Louis Devereaux (middle). 

Advanced scholars

The pair have had a life-long passion for mathematics since “well, nearly forever” and have taught all over the world.

“We arrived in Brisbane in the mid-1970s to teach at QUT. We taught at QUT for respectively 36 and 39 years. We estimate we might have taught close to 25,000 students – most of whom became teachers in Queensland.

“We like to think that they had a fond remembrance of their experiences in our classes.

“Before QUT, we studied and taught in various states in the US including Hawaii, Iowa, Wisconsin and Indiana, with Indiana being the place Rosie and I met.”

In addition, they have also written and published more than 600 books for school children to use.

Today, Dr Calvin still writes for ORIGO Education and more recently for Mathema Publishing, a separate entity that supports the Mathema Foundation. He currently has a book in the design and editorial stages with a publishing agency based in Melbourne.

There are also more books in the pipeline, as well as two manuscripts for two more books for their Mathema series, which they are currently working on.

When to visit

Weather permitting, it is hoped the Mathema Gallery will be open by the end of the year, with everything scheduled to be completed in November.

Opening times are yet to be confirmed, but Dr Calvin believes the gallery will be open from Thursday through to Sunday.

They also plan to make the gallery available for school excursions on other days.

Entry will be free for general visitors, and a small fee for guided tours and school excursions.

More information can be found about the Mathema Gallery at https://mathemafoundation.com/

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