An Orrery for an Arts Award

Silver Arts Award at the Museum of the History of Science

In this guest post Miranda Millward, Oxford University Museums Arts Coordinator, talks about a recent Silver Arts Award.


In 2014 Hovnan Eayrs approached the Museum of the History of Science to ask if he could work towards his Silver Arts Award. Hovnan planned to create a short informative film about a museum object which visitors could access during their museum visit by scanning a QR code with their smartphone. This idea was inspired by work experience Hovnan had undertaken at Imperial College as a Learning Technologist working on short films to help students understand scientific information. Hovnan also took inspiration from a visit to the Royal Institution where interpretation films are activated by scanning QR codes. Silver Arts Award requires young people to set themselves an Arts Challenge to develop their artistic and creative skills – Hovnan chose film making as his challenge.

A table orrery held in the Museum surrounded by its component parts.

The table orrery featured in Hovnan’s video with all its attachments (inv. 45104).

Hovnan spent time in the Museum looking at a number of objects and in the end chose to make his film about an orrery on permanent display. An orrery is a mechanical model of the solar system that demonstrates and predicts the relative positions and motions of the planets and moons – orreries were often used in domestic settings as a way to show contemporary science. Hovnan was interested in this object not only because of its history and visual qualities but also because it gave him the chance to film a moving object. Opposite the orrery’s display case is a print of a famous painting by Joseph Wright of Derby showing an orrery in a domestic setting with a family gathered around it. Hovnan wanted to highlight the juxtaposition of artefact and print.

In order to make his film Hovnan spent time planning and creating storyboards. He negotiated with museum staff to establish how and when he could access the object, which could only be handled by trained museum staff. Hovnan used the museum’s photographic studio where he was able to adjust lighting in order to minimise reflections. Hovnan was keen to link the Joseph Wright of Derby painting with a contemporary family looking at the orrery and this section closes the film. In addition, he created a script and recorded Chris Parkin, Education Lead at the Museum, narrating the voice over. The editing was time-consuming but the resulting film received some great feedback:

One of the highlights was to see the orrery in action… this is something that really enhances our understanding of this exhibit.

The film created a good atmosphere with the pace of the shots, the fades of the ‘celestial’ music up and down between the narration, and the combination of video and stills material. The script packs in plenty of information but is easy to follow and links tightly with the imagery.

As part of his Silver Arts Award Hovnan also had to undertake an Arts Leadership challenge. He chose to focus on working with a group of young people teaching them how to create a storyboard and plan their own short film. Hovnan had to plan and deliver this session, collect feedback and also evaluate how the session had gone and how he could have improved it.

By summer 2015 Hovnan’s portfolio was ready for moderation and we were all delighted when he passed and received some lovely feedback from the Arts Award moderator.

Hovan with his Arts Award Certificate

Hovnan with his Arts Award Certificate

‘It was a fantastic opportunity for me to learn and develop new skills from knowledgeable and experienced people and understand the challenges of making a film. I’m proud to have created something that is interesting and informative.’

‘The Arts Award is perfectly suited to support motivated young individuals like Hovnan to develop their arts skills outside formal education. As well as producing an excellent film, Hovnan gained experience of working with members of staff in a busy institution. It was a great pleasure to work with him.’
– Chris Parkin, Education Officer

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