The project began with an opportunity for 15 children to visit the Museum on two separate occasions and explore objects from its collection in depth. These included the Museum’s unique spherical astrolabe, the revolutionary clock, medical equipment, sundials, orreries and telescopes. The children interviewed a member of Museum staff whose work includes planning and designing exhibitions and publicity.
Their questions included:
- 'Do you have to be a scientist to work at the Museum?'
- 'What is the best part of your job?'
- 'What is the biggest object in the Museum?'
Later, the children took photographs of their favourite objects and made detailed observational drawings. The following week, a member of Museum staff visited the group with scientific objects for handling and drawing. Group leaders Jo Acty and Helen Edwards worked with the children in the intervening weeks as they researched their objects. Each learned about the work of a different artist and began to design their own artwork as a creative response. During their weekly sessions, the children began to construct a 3D object using a variety of media including chicken wire, modelling clay, wood, metal wire, and papier mâché.
The children developed a fascinating range of responses, each one thoughtfully planned, designed and constructed. It was wonderful to hear each child describe their object and the thinking behind their design at the end of the project. Everyone had assimilated ideas from the Museum, the history of their object and taken inspiration from their chosen artist to create a unique and intriguing object.
The children shared their work and spoke about their object at a school sharing assembly. One parent commented on the level of sophistication in the language they used to describe their work being ‘way beyond their years’. Everyone involved took part in a special celebration event at the Museum at which the Museum’s director and project organisers spoke about the process to parents, friends and carers. Everyone enjoyed seeing the children’s work together in a stunning display of creativity and invention.
Everyone involved produced wonderfully creative and imaginative responses to the collection, and they have each gained very well-deserved Discover Arts Award. Museum staff and art club leaders all also learned a great deal from the process of exploring scientific objects through art.
Objects created by the children included:
- a model of an anatomical theatre made from wood, inspired by stories about the anatomical demonstrations which took place in the Museum’s old basement gallery;
- a version of the Museum’s lodestone which takes the form of a magnetic jellyfish instead of a crown;
- a fully functioning camera obscura;
- a clock packed out with gadgets and gizmos inspired by the Museum’s ‘clockwork astrolabe’;
- a combined celestial and terrestrial globe;
- different mechanical hands;
- an etching of a fruit fly as it might have been seen through one of the museum’s microscopes;
- a hanging crystal ball; and
- a combined flat and spherical astrolabe.