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Africa Dance!

This Sunday (5 July) we will be hosting a vibrant day of dance, music and storytelling, incorporating a broad range of styles and cultures from the African Diaspora. With the weather behaving so well, the performances will take place in our gardens, featuring new, colourful plants.

Rehearsals in our sunken garden

With so many exciting performances planned, we’ve briefly summarised just three of them to give you a cheeky preview.

Tavaziva Dance

Tavaziva are one of the UK’s leading African-contemporary touring dance companies, their work often portrays challenging and current topics rooted in African cultures. On Sunday, they will open African Dance! With When King Gogo met the Chameleon.

Tavaziva Dance 

Inspired by traditional African tales, this spell-binding high energy, engaging adventure follows the adventures of numerous characters and the quest to marry the princess.

Ballet Nimba

Ballet Nimba is based on the "African Ballet" tradition which was born in Guinea to tell the stories of the Griots, travelling musicians and the region's oral historians. Their performance Dance of Joy incorporates a blend of mesmerizing flute, outstanding percussive beats, soaring vocals, and, of course, dynamic dancers.

Ballet Nimba


Weaving together music, dance and storytelling this piece will depict a narrative tracing a child’s life. The piece will explore the objects from the collection in their natural habitats, their use in the everyday life of Africans and their importance to African history across the world.



To see the full programme of events click here and we’ll see you on Sunday.

9 days to African Summer

Next Sunday we launch our African Summer, a series of lively events running throughout July and August exploring the rich cultures of Africa and its influences around the world.

A selection of Ogoni Masks from Nigeria

Our website is enjoying some African object editions, see if you can spot all 12.

Snuff Bottle – this South African bottle uses many different coloured beads to create the patterned design. The line of bright turquoise beads at the top act as a useful handle – practical and pretty – you can discover more about South African beading at our Explore Africa event.

Bronze figure – 3 female figures stand around a large bowl, stirring something, it could be beer. This bronze comes from Benin on the West African coast. Our African Summer Hear it Live event will feature the playing of a 21st century West African harp, bringing West African music to the Horniman and we have a performance of West African music on our Bandstand in August.

Tbila – These Moroccan Tbila are usually played with your hands, and the differently sized bowls allow the player to make a variety of different tones and intonations. Drums are found across Africa in a variety shapes and sizes, you can join us to hear live Ghanaian drumming.

Pipe – this wooden pipe has a tin decoration around the bowl, it comes with a handy metal pick for cleaning the inside of the pipe as well.

These are just a few of the objects we’ve uploaded onto our webpages, have a browse and be sure to experience our African Summer.

Refugee week at the Horniman Museum and Gardens

Lucia Cortelli, who has been volunteering at the Horniman for the past year, shares a few thoughts on our Refugee Week event.

On Saturday 20 of June the Horniman hosted a day of events and activities to mark Refugee Week. This is a UK- wide event that celebrates the important contributions refugees make to their host communities.

We offered a varied programme including live performances as well as outdoor activities organised by local community groups working with refugees and asylum seekers.

Streatham Women’s Sewing Group and Southwark Day centre for Asylum Seekers have been collaborating with the museum for a while and were present on the day to showcase their work at the Horniman.


 The aromatic spice tent

Streatham Women’s Sewing Group had sewn a tent that was set up in the garden where visitors could smell spices from all over the world and try to guess what they were. By the tent children and adults could play with some giant outdoor games provided by the Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network.

Speaking to some of the lawyers working with LRMN, they said they were happy to be at the Horniman to counter that prejudice in a space where they could promote their work and celebrate refugees’ contribution to the community.

A buzzing atmosphere in Gallery Square

In Gallery Square, Free Writers also performed. They are a group of young people from different cultural backgrounds who have been developing their creative writing skills with Rewrite charity. After they had shared their stories and poems, the Lahing Kayumanggi Dance Group enchanted the audience performing dances from the Philippines.

Overall Refugee Week at the Horniman was a day of celebration and an opportunity for local community groups, refugees and asylum seekers to bring the world to Forest Hill.

Creating the Anatomy of a Flower

Hello its Apprentice Gardener Ian again, it’s been a while but I have been hard at work creating a carpet bed with a lovely flower bed of the anatomy of a flower.


In case you haven't seen it yet (Where have you been??) it is a carpet bed with a flower display in the pattern of the anatomy of a flower. Its 3 metres in diameter with 7 different varieties of plants featuring: Alerbabthera's, sedums, sempervivums, etc.

Myself and one of the other gardeners Kevin created the bed for it but the plants were cultivated and designed by a company called Instaplants. They were the ones that grew the plants to the correct size and height and arranged them. If you wish to know more about how the design was done I recommend you visit their site http://www.instaplant.co.uk/

The creation of the bed was not as easy as it looks and it took a lot of planning and team work to create. The idea of a carpet bed that it is meant to lie at an angle so the image can be seen by standing in front rather then over.

The bed took a solid week and a half of hard work to create and I am quite proud of it. We started by cutting out a perfect 3 metre circle then digging out around the circle for the posts to go in.

After that we trenched out around it to get a great depth for the posts. Two days was spent cutting 62 posts to get a angle as they came down. The next phase was to put the poles in the ground. Progress started slowly but once we got the first ones in place it was plain sailing.


Once all of the posts were in they were cemented down, the middle was lined with geo-tech and filled with organic matter then top soil, the edges were given lovely white shingles and Tah-Dah the bed was made.


The flower display came in trays and it was just a matter of getting them in the right place like a puzzle. We put them all out and it was finished.

I have just given a brief summary. It was a lot harder then it sounds, trust me.

We ask that (just like you do with the rest of the garden) when you visit to treat it with respect as we put our heart and soul into making the bed and we are proud of it and don’t want it messed up. I hope you have enjoyed this blog and learnt something and if you do visit you’ll love the carpet bed as much as me and the gardens team do. 

A Horniman Harpsichord: The Oriental Miscellany

The Horniman is proud to announce the release of The Oriental Miscellany, the first professional recording to be made in its Music Gallery using the 1772 Jacob Kirckman double manual harpsichord.

The Oriental Miscellany dates from 1789 and was first published in Calcutta. According to its original title, it consists of  “a collection of the most favourite airs of Hindoostan, compiled and adapted for the Harpsichord.” These were transcribed from actual performances by William Hamilton Bird, a conductor, composer and impresario from Dublin, and possibly also Margaret Fowke, an accomplished harpsichordist and avid collector of Hindustani Airs.

Both of these musicians formed part of the British musical circle of the Governor-General of India, Warren Hastings, to whom the first edition was dedicated. The collection also included a sonata by Bird for harpsichord with violin or flute accompaniment which weaves ‘select passages’ from the airs into its various movements. This is perhaps the first work of East-West fusion.

The distinguished performers on the newly released CD are Jane Chapman, harpsichord, and Yu-Wei Hu, baroque flute.

Jane will be launching the CD at a special Hear It Live! event in the Horniman’s Music Gallery on Tuesday, 30 June from 3.30-4.00pm.

She will be playing the recently restored 1772 double manual Kirckman harpsichord featured in the At Home With Music display. Following her performance of excerpts from the CD, Jane will be signing copies for audience members. CDs can be purchased from the Horniman shop or, on the day, directly from the artist.

About the Art: Polly Morgan

Our exhibition Taxidermy is Dead (Long Live Taxidermy!) closes at the end of the week, we spoke to Polly Morgan about her pieces Gannet and Cormorant.

My work is always evolving; each piece leads on to the next one

What made you pick the specimens for the first two pieces in your exhibition here, ‘Gannet’ and ‘Cormorant’?

I wanted to do a pair piece and I liked the way they complimented each other, both being water birds, but black and white. Their long necks and beaks made them so elegant, I loved the way they draped, so they moulded to their surroundings.

Gannet and Cormorant

Each piece is a bird and drawing, what is the link between the two?

Well, first I skinned the birds and removed the bodies to build the replica form inside. I then had the bodies cremated and used the ash to draw these images. I mixed PVA with water and drew lines to build up an image of their nests. They were quite hard to see as it was a transparent solution I was drawing with. I then scattered the ash over the glue as it dried, a bit like children do when painting with glitter. I continued to build up the lines with a paintbrush and with a sharp tool I etched into areas to create light and shade.


How do you feel your pieces look displayed in a traditional taxidermy gallery like the one at the Horniman?

Well, I’ve never shown in an environment like the Horniman before. For me, it is important to recognise that taxidermy has mostly been a traditional art form, with animals mounted in cases that mimic their natural environment. I want to evolve taxidermy as an art form; it can be more versatile than it has been and I think it was quite a bold move displaying my work here. 

Displaying a doll’s house

The Horniman Study Collection Centre (SCC) is always a hive of activity and this month has been no different. Our industrious curatorial team are busily highlighting objects for potential redisplay in the near future. Our job at the SCC is to make sure they are packed for transportation, properly documented (including being marked with their unique number, photographed and measured) and ready to go to the museum for conservation and mounting prior to display.

One such object (and I say ‘object’ loosely) is a lovely dolls house which was last on display in the 1980s. Our curators have been researching the doll’s house and it is a fascinating mix of periods and styles, including some unusual parts dating to the 1850s.

On first inspection the doll’s house contents numbered about 150 pieces but on further investigation this wasn’t the case. In order for us to track every part of the house, we needed to ensure that every individual part had a separate number so that we can record the location of all of the tiny pieces. This is particularly important with display objects, as quite often all of the parts may not be on display at the same time.


On completion of the documentation, we now know that the doll’s house has over 400 parts, all of which have an individual record and photograph on Mimsy (our database).

Our next job was to make sure it was packed well. Many of the tiny parts are incredibly fragile, just imagine a tiny set of wine glasses and decanter. Therefore good packing, particularly as we know it will have to be transported to the museum, is essential. For the particularly fragile parts, we cut out individual homes for them in plastazote:


Hopefully in the near future the doll’s house will be on display in all its glory where you can discover all the wonderful objects for yourselves at the Museum.

If you are interested in our work behind the scenes, check out our tour of the Horniman store


I love Museums

The Museums Association launched their I Love Museums campaign, an online campaign for museum visitors, users and lovers to show their support for museums.

Museums are, ultimately, about people. There is no one type of person who vists a museums and there is certainly more than one reason to visit. This campaign gives you, the people who these museums are for, the chance to say why.

Discovering the Horniman Aquarium

'Museum' the word and idea came from the Greek museion meaning seat of the Muses (nine inspirational goddesses who were the gospel singers in Disney's Hercules). Museums used to be contemplative philosophical spaces, it was not for many years until objects were displayed in these spaces.

Performing arts, part of the Horniman's Nature Late event

Now, museums are vibrant and varied. Here at the Horniman, Victorian taxidermy is displayed next to contemporary art, and hand's on craft sessions take place in stunning gardens with live music playing. There's no one way of defining a museum and there are loads of reasons to love them so please let us know by clicking here.

Here are some of your responses so far:


The Horniman horses

We were recently visited by Livingstone and Finsbury, four legged members of the Metropolitan Police Mounted Branch. The horses (and others) donated 7 tonnes of manure to the Horniman Museum and Gardens that we have used on our Plantastic Gardens.

Inspector Katherine O'Brien commented that although "Police horses might seem unlikely gardeners" they were very pleased to see manure, that would otherwise go to waste, being used.

The horses helped us with our Planting for Pollinators garden which was planted in April. This bed contains species that will be very attractive to bees and butterflies when in bloom.

Wes Shaw, Head of Horticulture here at the Horniman, pointed out that "horse manure is an excellent way to provide great food for plants". This pop-up garden will look fantastic when in bloom, with Californinan Poppies, Fairy Toadflax and Cornflowers creating a beautiful display overlooking the London skyline.


Our Plantastic Gardens will be blooming throughout the summer and you can also visit our Plantastic exhibition within the museum.

Pictures taken by Sophia Spring.

Donation of manure made possible by Veolia Environmental Services (UK) plc.

The volunteering experience at the Horniman

One of our newest volunteers is Bobby Ogogo. Bobby has a visual impairment and over the past few months he’s been helping us test out how blind and partially sighted people can deliver object handling in the galleries. He’s normally in on Wednesday afternoons, so stop by and say hello!

Bobby spoke with Beth, Youth Volunteering Co-ordinator, about his experiences  volunteering at the Horniman:

“The Horniman Museum is very nice and friendly. You can help each other with the objects. It is hard when it’s dark because they can’t switch the light on. Some people can’t see anything so when it’s dark it gets all blurry.

  “In my first week I went to the Access Advisory Group – I was speaking to staff about good lighting and not good lighting. In the second week I learnt object handling. I played with some toys and bells and learned listening, smelling and playing, and to be careful. After that, I have been in the gallery. I liked all of it but object handling is my favourite – I can be gentle with all the objects.

“My dream museum is a nice, light, colourful place. I’d have objects like toys, instruments – anything I can play with. Some museums have nothing to touch. I’d have sound and stories – but not on headphones. Headphones don’t help sometimes because you can’t talk to people at the same time.

 “I learned listening skills and talking to people; meeting and greeting skills. It was absolutely busy – I’ve never seen it busier. I’ve enjoyed it but I wish it was quieter!

“I think volunteering at the Horniman is good. I feel confident about it. I’m getting used to stroking [the ferret] with two fingers. I was asking so many questions – What is it made of? How does it feel? Hot or cold? Where does it live? How does it move?


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