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TCD seeks public’s help in renaming library previously named after George Berkeley

Trinity removed Berkeley’s name from the central library earlier this year due to his slave-trade connections.

TRINITY COLLEGE DUBLIN is seeking the public’s help in renaming its central library after its decision to “dename” the Berkeley Library.

In April, TCD chose to dename the Berkeley Library after protests from students and representatives of the university.

This was led by then-Students’ Union president Gabi Fullam, who said the name did not reflect the values of Trinity in the 21st century.

Students of colour also said they did not feel comfortable entering a library that was named after an enslaver and some labelled it “abhorrent”.  

The library opened in 1967 and was named after George Berkeley in 1978.

Berkeley was an Anglo-Irish Bishop, scholar and philosopher who was awarded a founding fellowship from the university in the early 1700s.

However, Berkeley’s ownership of slaves and connections to the slave-trade made many students and representatives from the university petition to change the name.

In a statement in April, Trinity said the decision to dename the library “represented a nuanced approach and the result of careful consideration and detailed analysis”.

Trinity added that Berkeley bought slaves and “sought to advance ideology in support of slavery” and that the “continued use of the Berkeley name on its library is inconsistent with the University’s core values of human dignity, freedom, inclusivity, and equality”.

“The denaming does not deny Berkeley’s importance as a writer, philosopher, and towering intellectual figure,” said the Trinity statement.

In a video uploaded by the university yesterday, Professor Eoin O’Sullivan, the chair of the Trinity Legacies Review Working Group, said: “We are not cancelling Berkeley, this is not about cancel culture.

“It was really stressed that George Berkeley’s important work on philosophy would remain on our curriculum and be taught here in Trinity and elsewhere, but that this iconic building in the centre of the college, that Berkely did not reflect the values of Trinity today.”

O’Sullivan added that Berkeley being a theorist of slavery was a central point in the decision to dename the library.

He also said that a “crucial point in our deliberations” to dename the library was a “very powerful presentation by Gabi Fulham”.

She was a philosophy student and used Berkeley’s own writings and arguments in her presentation in favour of denaming the library.

Trinity College Dublin / YouTube

While a wide variety of options will be considered, Trinity said the suggested names must have a direct connection to Trinity.

The suggested names must also “respect the centrality of the library to Trinity’s research and the importance of its many collections”.

Anonymous or incomplete submissions will not be considered, nor will any names of living persons.

Helen Shenton, librarian and college archivist at TCD, noted that the suggestion doesn’t have to be the name of a person and “could be a suggestion for a place or a time”.

She added: “I think we’ve got the opportunity to be very creative and imaginative.”

Submissions can be made by clicking here.


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