We handed our precious Twitter account over to our Youth Panel for the day.
The 12 August 2016 was Teen Twitter Takeover, where cultural and heritage organisations across the UK handed their Twitter feeds over to teenagers using the hashtag #takeoverday.
This year, 73 museums were involved – and we were one of them.
The Youth Panel decided at one of their regular meetings that for this year's Teen Twitter Takeover they wanted to hunt for Pokémon.
The group were interested in using the platform to show how this popular game can link to the Horniman collections by finding objects throughout the museum and gardens that look like the characters in the game.
So, at 12pm we gathered with the Youth Panel and gave them two iPads set up with the Horniman Twitter account.
The group started by asking people to tweet in a name or picture of a Pokémon. They were inundated with tweets asking for Evees and Pikachus almost immediately.
The next step was to find objects IRL (in real life) that looked like these Pokémon.
Luckily, the team know the Horniman really well and knew where to go to find foxes, masks and garden plants. The teens are also very Twitter-savvy and so took to the game like a Magicarp to water. The group were great at using the hashtag to interact with other museums throughout the day.
They also managed to squeeze in some interesting facts about the objects they were taking pictures of. Our Deputy Keeper of Natural History, Emma, was on hand to give the team more information about the animals - for example, did you know the Bittern is one of the rarest birds in the Uk and in its native Norfolk lands is also known as a Butterbump?
Our Youth Volunteering Co-ordinator, Beth Atkinson, said ‘This year’s IRL Pokehunt for #takeoverday was ace. The Youth Panel excelled themselves yet again in coming up with such a hilarious idea, running around like human Zigzagoons and making it actually happen! Well done guys!’
Local performance group Whippersnappers go in search of the Brazilian folklore character of Saci Perere before their show at our Festival of Brasil.
‘Saci Perere is one of the most well-known mythical characters of Brazil. We have been busy speaking to our Brazilian friends and family and asking them what they know about Saci Perere.
Everyone seems to know what Saci looks like. They all say he wears a red cap, red shorts and has one leg. Some people say he lost his leg when he escaped from his slave master in the 18th century and others say he lost his leg when playing capoeira, but most people say Saci Perere has one leg and that is just how he is.
Legend has it that if you grab Saci’s red cap you are granted a wish, but the cap’s smell is so bad, you may never rid yourself of it.
Nobody has ever seen Saki Perere but they have all heard stories about how mischievous he is! Saci is a trickster and is blamed for all the things that go wrong in life – he burns the food and hides children’s toys.
We travelled to Ghana in May where we asked local tailors to stitch some of the backdrops for our performances and had a local puppeteer, Yevo a Togalese, create a Saci mask and puppet.
We were interested in the influence that enslaved African people had over the appearance of Saci Perere in Brazil. There are similarities between the African folklore character of Anancy (a trickster spider) and Saci Perere.
Our performance at the Horniman’s Festival of Brasil is an original theatre piece entitled “Cade O Saci Perere?” (Where is Saci Perere?)
It will draw inspiration from Brazilian handcraft. Brazilian handcraft is influenced by indigenous, African and Portuguese culture and enriched with the European and Asian migration’s touch, creating unique and colourful art.
Some of our decorations are based on the Brazilian ‘fuxico’ technique. Fuxico is where a piece of fabric which is cut into a circle, the edges are sewn and then pulled into the centre to create a round decoration. The name ‘fuxico’ is old slang for gossip as traditionally women would get together to sew these and gossip.
The show is also inspired by Brazilian ‘Folguedos’. Folguedos are traditional folk celebrations that feature live music, dance and theatrical performances some of which are performed on the streets around Brazil. Some Folguedos have religious roots and have over time been modified with new choreographies, costumes and masks.
Our performance will feature live music from Alba Cabral who will be playing Berimbau, pandeiro, surdo, tamborin, reco-reco (guiros), caxixis (shakers), the guitar, ukulele and kalimba.
Our show will be suitable for all the family and will have a sensory content to ensure it is accessible to children and adults with special needs. If you want to make sure you get a comfy seat bring your own cushion as we are expecting a lot of people. The word is spreading that Saci perere is coming to Forest Hill so if you live locally watch out he doesn’t turn your milk sour or put salt in your dough!'
Every month, the Animal Keepers want to introduce you to a member of their extended family.
August's star attraction is Poppy, our fawn-coloured alpaca. We are celebrating a big anniversary at the Animal Walk this month as Poppy turns two years old.
Poppy was born on the 3 August 2014 and is special to the Keepers and the Horniman because she is the first, and only, animal to be born at the Animal Walk.
Although this month sees her turn 2, she will always be a baby in the eyes of her mum, Peep, who kindly still allows Poppy to share her bedroom.
Poppy is fully mature but she still has a youthful sense of adventure, and can often be seen chasing pigeons and splashing about in her water bucket!
Alpacas were domesticated from vicuña - animals indigenous to South America and originating from The Andes in Peru, Chile and Bolivia. They are camelids and are related to guanacos, llamas and camels.
Alpacas have high quality fibre, which can be used to make textiles including jumpers, scarves and socks. Poppy and Peep are ‘Huacaya’ alpacas, which are known for their thick, woolly fibre. ‘Suri’ alpacas have much longer, dreadlock style fibre.
It may be hard to believe, but temperatures in The Andes are much lower than Britain’s summer, so to keep cool, our alpacas are shorn once a year and showered daily.
Alpacas kept in South America graze in herds, and will eat any scrub they can find. At the Horniman they are fed hay, grass, alpaca muesli mix, chaff, alfalfa and - Poppy’s absolute favourite - carrots (which she got an extra handful of on her birthday as a special treat!)
Alpacas can, but rarely do, spit, though they may spit at one another whilst fighting over food. Peep has also been known to try out her aim when the vet comes for a visit!
Come visit the Animal Walk and wish Poppy a very happy birthday! The Animal Walk is open each day from 12.30pm to 4pm and entry is free.
Robin Strub, our Anthropology Volunteer, has been looking into the Horniman's collection of charms.
Have you ever wondered how the Horniman got its objects?
Who brought them here, and why?
I’m here to help answer some of those questions! I volunteer in Anthropology’s collection of English charms and amulets, which has a lot of pieces from a man named Alfred William Rowlett.
He came from the Cambridgeshire town of St Neots and, between 1904 and 1933, he sold the Horniman dozens of items that he had found as part of his town’s rural culture.
What do you think of when you look at the objects in the Horniman’s cases? What do you imagine of the people who collected them?
Do you think of a Victorian, professorial man with a tweed jacket and pipe?
How about a Victorian dustman with a bin and broom?
This picture is of Rowlett, who worked as a Dustman for the local government. Bert Goodwin, a historian and local of St Neots, remembers Rowlett, and wrote about him for the St Neots Local History Magazine’s 2011-12 winter edition, including this picture of Rowlett and his dustbin making his rounds.
When looking up Rowlett in the 1881 Census I found he was in work as a labourer by the time he was 13. He went on to become a businessman, as well as a Dustman, with an antiques shop, and worked with the Horniman in a professional capacity. He even had his own official stationery that he used to write letters and invoices to the Horniman! Here is how his letterhead looked:
We don’t know how Rowlett started working with the Horniman but as a local, he had specialist knowledge and access to his community. This was undoubtedly part of the benefit of the Horniman doing business with him. In a letter dated 6 May 1907, Rowlett noted that ‘my business is to find out and get all the necessary information I can get’ on objects destined for the Museum.
His research is still important for the Horniman, as the things we know about the objects he sourced came via his connections. The information would otherwise have been lost without his detailed descriptors.
Here is what he wrote about a ‘Spinning Jenny’ (object number 7.199) as an example, with a transcription beneath.
used at Easton Socon, Beds for Raffling oranges sweets & home made cakes at Holiday times & festivals with an original charm against the children in getting to high a number so as to benefit the owner of Spinning Jenny
used by Mrs Newton at home and village feasts in & Round Bedfordshire Cambs & Hunts
1856 half penny a spin
This is how the Spinning Jenny works:
You can see a piece of orange flint tied to the device - that’s the charm.
We know what that flint was for thanks to Rowlett, as well as precise details about how the Spinning Jenny is used. (I thought the owner would’ve been caught out by cheating, but my Curator figured out that if you keep the stone against your palm and hold out the Spinning Jenny, nobody can see that you have it in your hand!)
Rowlett would also make handwritten labels for artefacts that were entering the collection, and many of his labels are still stored with the objects. This is an example for number 9.41 in our collection, a wood pigeon’s foot that was used to ward off cramp.
A lot of the charms that Rowlett brought us are things from the natural world that people associated with various curative powers.
It may seem strange today, but the idea was that wood pigeons never get foot cramps. If I carry a wood pigeon’s foot, maybe that will protect me too. If you have ever heard of someone carrying a lucky rabbit’s foot, it’s not too far a leap from practices today.
Rowlett’s community of St Neots still remembers him as someone to go to for these kinds of all-natural remedies for health problems.
Local historian Rosa Young transcribed several adverts from a 1900 issue of a local paper for the St Neots Local History Magazine’s, which included an old advert that Rowlett had put in the paper for his own special patent medicine. It cured everything (naturally) but Rowlett’s neighbours did come to him seeking his medical expertise.
Bert Goodwin, the local historian who photographed Rowlett, recounts that when he was a child he had a wart on his knee cured by Rowlett,
He cut a small twig from a bush which he called ‘Joseph’s Thorn’, which he shaped into a spatula, and then made his mark on the wart X. “There,” he said, “it will be gone by the next full moon.” Strangely enough, I forgot about it, but when I next looked it had gone.
Because of Rowlett’s work at St Neots, the local historical society put up a Blue Plaque for him.
Like the wood pigeon’s foot above, many of the objects that Rowlett brought to the Horniman were considered to have health benefits. The charms I’m studying were used by real people who believed in them, and used them to solve a variety of different problems. Ironically, Rowlett – with his Joseph’s Thorn for curing warts – thought that some of the charms’ owners were ‘eccentric’!
I don’t know about you, but I have lucky charms. Millions of people all over the world believe in the power of objects and in 2018, the Horniman will open a new gallery where you will be able to find charms from all around the world, including those collected by Rowlett!
If you’d like to see what Rowlett brought to the Horniman, and 2018 is too long to wait, you can find all of Rowlett’s objects online.
Our Deputy Natural History Keeper Emma-Louise Nicholls has been finding a large number of unusual specimens at the Museum that are definately new additions.
If you don’t play PokémonGo, that’s ok. If you haven’t heard of PokémonGo, you need to leave your cave and interact with the world more. Virtual reality is not a new concept but it is still one that blows my mind. Standing in the garden looking at my phone, I can see the real grass on the screen, and yet there’s a Jigglypuff sitting on it. He’s right there. That element is what persuaded me to bow to public pressure and PokémonGothere. As it were.
One of the rare Pokémon (I’ve been told) is the famous Pikachu, special friend of Ash (a cartoon human) and bright yellow star character of the Pokémon world. When I started playing PokémonGo I was told that Pikachu would be impossible to catch. Well, I caught 16 in two days at the Museum (not to mention the 5 or 6 that got away), and that’s just on my lunch-breaks.
Although I found him under a bush in the Horniman Garden once, as well as loitering around the Conservatory, Pikachu seems to have a special affinity for the Natural History Gallery (so clearly he has good taste). I've not once run into him on the balcony (perhaps he's afraid of heights) but I’ve seen him a number of times in the Bird Case looking at the ducks. Maybe he’s a closet Ornithologist, or perhaps he’s brushing up on his comparative anatomy skills. After all, does anyone know where in the tree of life a Pikachu sits? He’s sort of a yellow squirrel with lightening for a tail. Hmmm.
He seemed to be particularly excited about seeing the Dodo, or maybe it was the Okapi that put the electricity in his tail. “Wooo look, they’re rare like me!” (rough translation) he squealed in Pokélanguage.
Whatever Pikachu, I see you daily. I don’t think you’re rare at all.
I really rather like my job and don’t want to be fired for chasing Pokémon around the galleries when I should be unravelling curatorial mysteries, so I can only play PokémonGo at lunchtimes. Despite this, over the two days that I’ve been playing I have caught 23 species of Pokémon at the Horniman Museum and Gardens. There are no less than 11 Pokéstops in the 16.2 acres of ground at the Horniman, and someone is always setting off a lure at one of them (this attracts Pokémon, for those who cave-dwell). Pikachu and I have been seeing so much of each other, he now comes to visit me at my desk. Aww, what a friendly chap.
In short dear Pokéhunters if you are in need of a Pokémon, especially one that is Pikachu shaped, I recommend you sidle down/up/across to the Horniman.
Did you know we are doing ground-breaking coral research behind-the-scenes? Our Aquarium Curator, Jamie Craggs, tells us about the threat to coral reefs around the world and how we are working to solve it.
‘Coral reefs are incredibly diverse habitats. One square metre of coral reef contains as many different types of animals (genera) as a whole hectare of Amazon rainforest.
They also support millions of people through food security, coastal protection and income through tourism.
But coral reefs are under threat. Human activities like pollution, overfishing and climate change mean we are losing coral reefs at an alarming rate.
How do we stop this?
The only way to understand how to recover the coral reefs is to understand coral reproduction. We need to look at the way reefs naturally rebuild themselves, so that we can help the process.
In their natural habitat, most corals reproduce over one or two nights a year during a mass spawning event. All coral in one area spawn at once and the event is dependent on the right climatic conditions, temperature and phases of the moon.
But once or twice a year is a very short time to study coral reproduction!
That’s where Project Coral comes in.
What is Project Coral?
Project Coral is a research project looking at coral reproduction led by the Horniman Museum and Gardens along with international partners. The main aims of Project Coral are:
1. To understand reproduction. Coral have occasionally spawned in aquariums, but it has always been accidental. By understanding what makes coral tick in the wild, we have created a research system which mimics their natural environment. This allowed us to produce the first planned spawning event in an aquarium in 2013. We are now developing protocols so that corals can be spawned at different times of the year.
2. To share our knowledge. If the research community has access to the same set up as ours then we could potentially be looking at far more spawning events every year then we currently have. This would give us more chance to study how coral reproduction will be affected by future ocean conditions as a result of climate change.
3. To help restore the coral reefs. Once we have more opportunity to study coral we, along with the international scientific community, will have more of a chance to produce baby coral which can be used to reseed dying reefs.
4. To supplement the hobby trade. If we get to a point where we can produce baby coral, we might also be able to produce them for the aquarium trade, a practise that will provide alternative sustainable income for people that rely on coral reefs.’
Our Student Volunteer, Liberté Reilly, tell us about her placement in our Communications and Income Generation department.
'Hello! This is Liberté, and I am doing a Student Volunteer placement here at the Horniman Museum and Gardens. This placement is an important part of my Masters of Museum Studies program that I am currently completing at the University College London. It means that I can get real world experience as well as spending ridiculous amounts of hours in the library.
For this placement, I am stationed in the CIG department. Most of you may not know about CIG. CIG stands for Communications and Income Generation. When it comes to museums, most people don’t always realise how they fund, organise, and promote all their exciting events, new objects, and special projects. That’s where we come in! CIG is where projects (and dreams!) become reality.
My volunteering role is specifically with the membership and fundraising team in CIG. I have been updating membership files and connecting Gift Aid forms with members. Gift aid is a really amazing government charity tax relief program that allows the Museum to gain 25% more per donation. You only have to be a UK taxpayer and fill out a simple form. Say someone donates £10 and completes a Gift Aid form - the museum would receive £12.50. Pretty cool, right?
With the fundraising team, I have been researching different trusts and funding bodies who would be interested in the Horniman Aquarium’s Project Coral.
If you haven’t heard of Project Coral you should check it out! Simply put, Project Coral is about finding the right conditions in a lab to create baby corals. In the wild, corals only reproduce once or twice a year under very specific conditions. The three person team here did a world first when they intentionally spawned broadcast corals in captivity in 2013. The project is ongoing and could really help coral and climate change researchers, aquariums and all the people and marine life who depend on coral reefs.
Along with researching possible funders, I have been learning about corals and have even started writing applications for the project.
Another of my tasks has been to research online donation aka those little donate buttons you find on charity websites. I looked into where those links went and compiled a report about the online donation sites and how they worked. My report included a series of recommendations for how the Horniman could use these sites for general donations and special projects (like Project Coral!).
The best part about CIG, and the Horniman, is how passionate everyone is! As part of CIG, we get to hear about all the cool projects, ideas and events from all the interesting people who work across the Horniman. Many of these are upcoming or still in development.
I hope now you’ll think of the CIG team when you see beautiful videos about the Museum, browse in the shop, go to an event, discover new objects in the collection or become a member! Don’t forget to Gift Aid it!'
We love the Mayor of London’s campaign to show the world that the capital is open for business, open to ideas and open to people from across the world who have chosen to live and work in London. As part of the campaign Mayor Sadiq Khan has said,
London is the best city in the world. It is creative, international, entrepreneurial and full of opportunities. I’m incredibly proud to be Mayor of a city that’s so comfortable with its diversity and so optimistic about its future.
We don’t simply tolerate each others’ differences, we celebrate them.
Inspired by the #LondonIsOpen campaign and the Mayor's comments we thought we would share some of the ways that the Horniman is open.
Open for learning
Whether you are one of the 46,000 adults and children who visited us on a school trip last year, a member of our Youth Panel or are one of our community groups, we want you to find the Horniman friendly, fascinating and ultimately fun.
As one Year 3 pupil put it after an Ancient Egypt hands on session,
Thank you for letting me touch this amazing stuff; I never thought I could do that!
Open to the world
Just as our founder Frederick Horniman travelled the world collecting, we want to give back to all our international visitors through objects and experiences that spark off wonder and joy. We celebrate different cultures through our events and seasons, like the Festival of Brasil, which has bought Brazilian artists together with our communities to shape the Festival.
There is also a hive of international exchange going on behind the scenes. Horniman staff work with experts all over the world to exchange information and advance global knowledge on a range of topics, from examining what it means to be human to coral reproduction.
Open for sharing
Members of our communities share their thoughts, experiences, memories and stories of the Horniman with us and we love to read them.
The Horniman has fantastic visitors coming through the door daily, visiting our Gardens and coming to our website from every corner of the world, from south London to Samoa.
Underpinning everything we do is a desire to use our collections and Gardens to encourage a wider appreciation of the world, its peoples, cultures and environments. This spans from pond dipping sessions at the bottom of our Gardens to working with coral specialists in Australia.
So next time you are thinking of trying something new have a look at all the amazing things the Horniman has to offer and pay us a visit.
Think Moths are dull? Think again! Our volunteer, May, tells us how surprising and beautiful these creatures can be. In her first blog, May tells us all about the Hawkmoth.
'My name is May and I have just graduated from University where I studied Biology. I have been volunteering at the Horniman for just over a year and insects are my passion! I have been fortunate to work on the insect collection alongside the Horniman’s Keeper of Natural History, Jo Hatton. My main task as a volunteer is capturing data about the collections. I ensure each specimen has been electronically recorded with its own unique identification number and make sure this is associated with all of that specimens’ data including the date the specimen was collected, the species name and its locality.
Fact File: Elephant Hawkmoth (Deilephila elpenor)
Did you know? The Elephant Hawkmoth gets its name from its caterpillar’s resemblance to an elephant’s trunk. These caterpillars have four eye-spots which startle and warn off predators. The adult moths are more vibrantly coloured, though the specimens shown here have faded slightly with age.
Fact File: Privet Hawkmoth (Sphinx ligustri)
Did you know? The Privet Hawk moth is the largest Hawkmoth found in the UK with a wingspan of up to 12cm. As caterpillars, they feed on Privet bushes and it this foodplant gives the species its name.
As a keen entomologist (someone who studies insects), I feel that the beauty of moths often goes unnoticed, probably due to the fact that most species are nocturnal, which can make them harder for us to spot. The occasional drab species that finds its way into the bathroom is often the only time we get to encounter moths up close.
But not all moths are brown, despite what many people think! There are over 2,500 species of moth in the UK. My favourites belong to the family Sphingidae, commonly known as the Hawkmoths. These moths have earned their name through their fast, powerful flight and incredible night vision. The two specimens above are examples of Hawkmoths found within the UK. Both species share a vibrant pink colouration which is rarely seen in moths. This allows them to be easily identified.
I’ve been lucky enough to see some of these remarkable moths first hand, through my moth trap. I received a moth trap for my 13th birthday and it is the best present I have ever gotten to this day. A moth trap is a closed square box with a mercury light bulb that emits a very bright light. The inside of the trap is lined with empty egg boxes for the moths to settle on. Attracted by the light, moths fly in through a small gap in the centre of the trap, but are often unable to find their way out again. Instead they settle on the egg boxes for the rest of the night. When you check the trap in the morning, you can then see all the moths resting among the egg boxes and then release them once they’ve been identified and counted.
I remember the first time I caught a Privet Hawk-moth in my moth trap. I was completely taken by their beauty, and fascinated by their almost fluorescent pink colour. I could see my neighbour peering over the garden fence trying to work out what I was looking at. I took the moth over to her and she gasped and exclaimed “It’s almost as big as your hand! I didn’t know moths could be so bright! It is beautiful.” We both watched as the moth flew away, perfectly demonstrating its powerful flight and resembling a hawk in the sky. I was so pleased to have had the opportunity to show someone how beautiful moths can be and to convert her perceptions of moths being dull!
If you want to learn more about these fascinating insects head to the UK moths website to explore the diversity of moths that you can find in your own backyard!
Below are images of an Elephant Hawkmoth that I caught whilst running a moth trap in my garden.'
Share your moth pictures with us using the hashtag #horniman on Instagram and Twitter.
The specimens in our Natural History Gallery may awe and amaze on a regular basis, but even if you left your job, smuggled in a sleeping bag and spent every second here from now on, there would still be stories and secrets the specimens wouldn’t reveal. The amount of information locked away in museum databases, and other enigmatic scientific sources, is too vast for a museum display to cover.
Our Deputy Keeper of Natural History - Emma-Louise Nicholls - is kicking off her Specimen of the Month blog series to bring you closer to the specimens as well as the species for which each is an ambassador. Kicking off the series is…
The secretarybird (Sagittarius serpentarius)
An excellent striker
Their long gangly legs and striking facial palette may have you flicking past the Birds of Prey section in your Africa book, but they are actually thought to be most closely related to hawks and eagles.
Secretarybirds eat whatever they want including mammals, birds, amphibians and (often venomous) reptiles. Upon sighting something with lunch potential, secretarybirds will lash out with their long legs and well developed feet with impressive force. Prey such as venomous adders and cobras are kicked straight in the head: by pounding the business end of the snake into the ground, the secretarybird decreases the chance of lunch biting back.
Once it’s definitely ceased to live, the secretarybird will swallow the snake whole like a string of spaghetti. They will also stamp on tufts of grass to send any edible occupants running (probably unsuccessfully) for their lives.
What’s in a name?
The species was first described in 1779 and given the name Falco serpentarius. Thanks to the Natural History Museum archives (three cheers for digitisation), we can see the 250 year old painting from the original 1779 manuscript. The secretarybird only survived as a member of the Falco group for four years before its taxonomy was revised and it was put in its very own genus, Sagittarius. Taxonomy, as I’m sure you know, is the system by which organisms such as plants and animals are grouped together based on how closely related they are.
Not every secretarybird is born between 23 November and 21 December, their genus Sagittarius actually means bowman and refers to their appearance. The quill-like feather ensemble behind the head looks enough like feathered-arrows to have conjured an aesthetic kinship with archers in the 1700s. The species name Serpentarius refers to the secretarybird’s love of snake dishes.
Before being formally described in 1799, the secretarybird was illustrated in manuscripts dating as far back as 1240 (not a typo). The following images are originally from De arte venandi cum avibus (The Art of Falconry) by Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II. The label Bistarda deserti is thought to have been added in the 1600s and shows that at that time the secretarybird was believed to be a species of bustard.
A chartered secretary(bird)
The Horniman’s taxidermy specimen can be traced back to South Africa. In 1951 it was given to the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators in London as a gift from the branch in South Africa.
The specimen was prepared by world-renowned taxidermists Rowland Ward Ltd, which adds even more excitement to its backstory if you’re the kind of natural history geek that likes to know these things. Like me. A few years ago it was decided the specimen should go to a museum. It was offered to a number of institutions before settling down and finding true happiness at the Horniman in 2011.