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Happy Birthday Poppy!

Happy birthday to our alpaca Poppy, who was born 1 year ago today.

We've gotten into the habit of calling Poppy our 'baby alpaca' - but at one year old, there's only about six months left before she's fully grown.

Today, Poppy has celebrated with a few extra carrots for breakfast. Some alpacas also like apples, but our two (Poppy and mum Peep) seem to prefer carrots.

Here's Poppy enjoying her day, sunbathing in the August sun.

Poppy's name was inspired by the centenary of the outbreak of World War One, which was marked last year on 4 August 2014. Her name was chosen by Horniman visitors and readers of the South London Press in a competition last year.

If you'd like to visit Poppy, our Animal Walk is open each day from 12.30pm to 4pm. Entry to the Animal Walk is free.


New Dance at African Late

This year, we've commissioned a series of dance companies to create new pieces inspired by our African collections for our African Summer events.

Following a public call out earlier this year, five companies were selected in April. They have worked over the past 3 months composing these pieces.

We also organised training for the artists to tell them more about our collections and how they can incorporate objects into their work.

Here is an insight into two of our new commissions which are going to be seen for the first time at our African Late event next week.

Vocab Dance Company

Performer and choreographer Alesandra Seutin has been running Vocab Dance Company since 2007. She combines African traditional dance with contemporary dance and Hip Hop to create distinctly Afro-European dance.

For her piece, Alesandra wants to explore a traditional Ghanaian ceremony called Dipo from the Krobo ethnic group. It's a rite of passage into womanhood that is celebrated with dance, challenges, ornaments/beads and music.

Alesandra will create a physical, sonic and visual response of this event celebrating young girls becoming women .

N’da Dance Company

Originally from Ugie, South Africa, Mbulelo Ndabeni is a dancer, choreographer and director of N'da Dance Company.

Along with Barcelona-born Estela Merlos, Mbulelo has created a stunning dance piece called vUka exploring identity and the need to fit within society with attachment and detachment shaping the piece.   

African Late

The two commissions by Vocab Dance Company and N’da Dance Company will be showcased at the African Late next Thursday, 6 August.

This night of contemporary performances will include atmospheric live music, stunning circus performances, films and by young African filmmakers, colourful stories in the galleries and more. Get your tickets now.

Makings Masks

Pupils from Erith Secondary school have been taking part in a project with the Horniman to design and make a mask.

African masks that provided inspiration for the students

Mrs R King, Head of Art at Erith School said:

"Each year the whole of Year 8 take part in an extended cross-curricular project which seeks to enhance and develop the students’ knowledge and understanding of African art and artefacts, in particular the masks collection."


The students' display

This is an exciting trip for the students who spend the whole day at the museum not only viewing the extensive collection, but the students get the chance to handle them as well. Students make sketches in the galleries and handling session and then return to the classroom to develop ideas for designing and making their own masks.

The museum gives the students a unique learning experience which is both thought provoking and informative.

Some fantastic new masks

Back at school one of their tasks is to design and create a mask using inspiration form their visit to the Horniman. Some of these are now on display in the museum’s education centre and also online as part of our schools flickr page.

The school are already planning a repeat visit for next term.

Using NFC tags in our displays

A new display of artwork by Edward Chell opened in our Natural History Gallery last week.

Along with painted plant silhouette panels, the display features objects from our collections with inspired Edward's art.

One of these is a book of cyanotypes by Anna Atkins. Only one page of the book can be displayed at a time (due to light sensitivity and also practically). There is also a large porcelain dish from China.

We wanted to show more pages from the book, as well as show our visitors more details about the dish.

Our website gives us the tools for that. We have:

Earlier this year, we blogged about putting QR codes into our new Natural History Gallery displays as a way of testing these out. So for Edward Chell's display, we thought we would try another option: NFC tags.

NFC tags are small chips with information that can be read by smartphones simply by touch (they work in the same kind of way as London's Oyster cards). Our two tags bring visitors to the two links above.

We're displaying these tags along with a short cut web address - for those devices that don't use NFC technology.

Like QR codes, there are pros and cons to using NFC tags (pros: they're cheap, easy to implement, nifty; cons: do people know what they are, they don't work on all phones).

Overall, we're intriged to see how well these will be used - we'll let you know what we find.

Take a Tea Trail

We have been working on an innovative digital project along with Europeana: Food and Drink, creating a webapp that will allow users to explore collections, historical sites and London venues all on the theme of tea.

The app is split into three trails that can be followed or used to give you an original idea for a London visit. The three trails are:

A history of tea

A look at how tea first arrived in London, how society took to having a cuppa and the development of tea cultivation.

Tea around the world

Tea is enjoyed around the world and in many different forms, this trail covers some of the many tea drinking customs that can be enjoyed in London.

Afternoon tea

The tea institution that is Afternoon Tea has a fascinating history that started over  200 years ago, from traditional Earl Grey to contemporary tea blends, we have gathered some of London’s most famous and secret tea serving venues.

The Horniman Musuem and Gardens were founded by a tea merchant; an appropriate legacy for us to celebrate

The webapp is due to launch later this year and it has been excellent fun researching the content, who knew there was a link between afternoon teas and a polio vaccination.

Get involved

London is a tea capital and we certainly can’t know all there is to know, no matter how many cuppas we have. So, we need your help crowd source a couple of venues:

  • Let us know where have you had your best afternoon tea or cup of tea,
  • London venues that serve Rooibos or Maté blends (we are a big fan of both)


If you have any questions or comments on the project please Tweet, Instagram or Facebook us or email us

Pearly King goes Down Under

After a good year of planning the Pearly King suit has gone on loan to Western Australian Maritime Museum in Perth, as part of their fantastic Lustre exhibition.

The Pearly King suit being installed

The exhibition is in partnership with Nyamba Buru Yawuru, an organisation which represents the Yawuru people, who are the native title holders of Broome.

The Pearly King suit in his case

Broome was once the Pearling capital of the world and the exhibition is looking at the intriguing stories behind northern Australia’s unique pearling tradition, weaving together intersecting strands of Aboriginal, Asian and European histories to reveal an insight into one of Australia’s oldest industries.

Delicate conservation work taking place on the suit.

Mother of Pearl has become valued across the world, and been used in many innovative ways for hundreds of years. The Pearly King suit (which was kindly donated to the Museum by Fred Booth’s family in 2011) is an integral piece in the exhibition to illustrate the diverse uses across the world.

Packed and ready to go

Along with the suit are beautiful personal adornment and status objects, carved pearl shells, art deco decorative insects, carvings with pearl shell inlayed, all from Aboriginal, Asian and European cultures.

A lot of work has been involved removing the suit from display, conserving it and packing it up before it went on its long journey across to Australia. He had his own specialist crate built for him, a quite a bit of TLC and a clean from Conservation, and some carefully created padding to keep him in good shape ready to go straight on display.

It has been such a fantastic opportunity to work with two amazing organisations and share an iconic part of London life with the other side of the world!

The Pearly King suit will be on display at the Western Australian Maritime Museum in Perth until 25th October 2015. 

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. 

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