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Name that Dino

Dinosaurs roamed the earth for nearly 150 million years, leaving us tantilising clues in the forms of fossils to try and piece together their world.

Dinosaurs have always been fascinating to humans, with extensive digs and studies unearthing species for hundreds of years, but what do you do when you find a dinosaur skeleton? Well, you have to name it and the naming of dinosaurs is as much of a science as the finding thing in the first place!

'Dinosaurs' are they really terrible lizards?

The word 'dinosaur' was coined by Sir Richard Owen an eminent biologist and comparative anatomist. An avid dinosaur reasercher, Owen worked with Benjamin Hawkins to produce the dinosaur skeletons that are now residents of Crystal Palace.

Dinosaur comes from two Greek words: Deinos (terrible - where we get the word dire from) + Sauros (lizard), so dinosaur = Terrible Lizard. This name reflects the contemporary scientific thought of the time, of dinosaurs as savage and scary creatures.

 An Utahceratops illustration

The same components are found in modern dinosaur names as well, combining sometimes two or three components to make a longer name. This name can also tell a paleontologist details about which family group a specimen is from.

Ceratops is a group of dinosaurs meaning horn face. Paleontologists can then add another element to describe dinosaurs within this group: Triceratops means Three Horn Face (because it has three horns). The name of a dinosaur can also tell you were it was discovered, like Utahceratops which means Utah Horn Face (a horned dinosaur discovered in Utah, USA).

Tarbosaurus Bataar, a name with Greek and Mongolian elements

Sometimes dinoasur names switch languages which can be another way of describing the dinosaur and where it was discovered. A vast Tarbosaurus Bataar skeleton is on display in our new exhibition Dinosaurs: Monster Families, but the name of this specimen is slightly complex.

Tarbosaurus means Alarming or Startling Lizard (Ancient Greek) but Bataar is Mongolian for Hero or Warrior. So the full name of our terrifying skeleton is: Alarming Hero Lizard, not only is that a pretty cool name, but the use of Mongolian refers to the species' find location.

With such an array of excellent names to have, we guessed you would want to have a dinosaur name as well, so have made a Dinosaur Name Finder based on the specimens in our displays and exhibition.

Be sure to tweet us your results and we can tell you a dino fact!

Dinosaurs: Monster Families open this weekend, you can pre book tickets online and avoid the queue.

Crocodile Conservation

Charlotte, our Conservation Officer, tells us about her work on a crocodile skull in preparation for its installation in Dinosaurs: Monster Families.

The skull and jaw (lower mandible) were incredibly dirty and were covered in an extremely thick layer of soot and dust. I removed the loose dust with a museum vacuum and soft brush and then gave the bones a further clean with alcohol on cotton wool swabs to remove the thicker layer of dirt.


Charlotte's cleaning a very dirty #crocodile #skull #conservator #conservation #dirt #museum #naturalhistory #london #swabswabswab #teeth

A video posted by Horniman Museum and Gardens (@hornimanmuseumgardens) on

You can see from the photos that the recesses in the skull that the teeth sit in are generally wider and deeper than the actual teeth causing the teeth to be loose in the skull. Originally, the teeth would have been held in place by periodontal ligaments but this tissue was removed during its preparation as a skeletal specimen.

Our curator wanted the skull to be displayed in a “life-like” open jaw pose and that meant I would need to secure the teeth back into the skull to prevent them from falling out.

To do this I used Japanese tissue paper which is a type of tissue made from the inner bark of the paper mulberry tree. Conservators use this tissue for all sorts of repairs and fills. In this case I created twists of tissue which I inserted between the teeth and bone. This filled the “void” space and created a contact area between the teeth and bone.

I soaked the tissue with a solvent based adhesive and once the adhesive dried the teeth were firmly secured in place.

The adhesive I used is reversible and that means that I can reactivate the adhesive and easily remove the Japanese tissue if a curator wants to analyse individual teeth in the future.

Now the skull and jaw can be displayed the correct way up without the loss of any teeth.

You can see our cleaned crocodile alongside dinosaur remains, eggs  and more in our new exhibition Dinosaurs: Monster Families that opens Saturday 13 February.

Jamrach's Legacy

Elle Larsson, curator and researcher of 'London's Urban Jungle' tells us her closing thoughts on the display and the exotic animal trade.


I wanted to create London's Urban Jungle to answer a question I think few of us actually think about – just why did zoological and natural history collections begin and grow so rapidly, and what facilitated that growth, particularly during the 19th century?

Also, and perhaps this is a more subtle message in the exhibition itself, I wanted to draw attention to the legacy of the animal trade and the fact that it still continues.

During the nineteenth century the exotic animal trade was closely associated with imperial and economic expansion. It was a branch of informal empire which helped project an image of imperial supremacy and individual wealth and led to the creation of the majority of collections we are familiar with today.

Since the turn of the 20th century, regulations have been introduced which aim to prevent and have largely made illegal a lot of the animal trade, however it does still go on around the world.

This is what I would most like people to take away - that actually this type of trading hasn’t entirely disappeared and that it remains detrimental to animal welfare.

Knowing the history behind such collections and being open about how and where they originated is one thing that we can do. Another is to continue working towards protecting the world’s wildlife in a way that animal dealers like Jamrach failed to do.

London's Urban Jungle is on display in the Natural History Gallery until 21 February.

You can find out more about the exotic animal trade and its legacy in our new Collections Story.

Horniman Dinosaurs

With our new exhibition Dinosaurs: Monster Families opening in a few weeks, we're taking a look at the dinosaurs already on display here.
What actually is a dinosaur?

We all probably have a pretty good image of what a dinosaur should be: big, scales, teeth, tendency to not adhere to theme park regulations.

Unfortunately, it's not that simple. Dinosaurs could be small, much smaller than a human, through to the titan sauropods that are measured in buses. Also, some dinosaurs had feathers and beaks.

In general, a dinosaur lives during the Mesozoic era (started about 250 million years ago) and they must have either lizard or bird like hips and live on land.

That means creatures like Pteordactyl, although from a similar time are actually pterosaurs, not technically a dinosaur.

Also, it is a misconception that dinosaurs are the 'terrible lizards' that their name means. Our new exhibition shows a new side to their family lives, how they hatched their eggs and raised their young. You still wouldn't cross a Tarbosaurus though...

The exhibition will welcome a whole host of new dinosaurs to the Horniman, so we had a look at the dinosaur models in our Natural History Gallery.


A family favourite, this herbivore lived about 150 million years ago in the Jurassic period. The spikey tail could have been used as a defense against attacking carnivores, and the spines along the back may have acted as defensive armour, or helped a stegasaurus manage it's body temperature.

Despite looking pretty formidable, stegasurus had a very small brain to body ratio meaning whilst it may have been good in a fight, it probably couldn't complete a sudoku.


Another defense heavy dino, but is far more recent than stegosaurus, being about 75 million years old. Scolosaurus remains are found across North America where it would have frolicked in a lush environment, with soil kept fertile by occasional vocanic activity.


A Cretaceous dinosaur, triceratops lived about 68 million years ago. Triceratops has a distinctive neck frill and three horns making it quite a recognizable specimen. These may have been used as defences but the discovery of blood vessels in the frill suggest they may have been able to flush them with blood and make vivid courtship displays.


Scelidosaurus is one of the earliest complete dinosaur finds, and fossils have been found in the UK down in Dorset. Perhaps our small model doesn't do this dinosaur justice, they would have grown to about 4 metres long with a series of plate like armour running along it's body.

This is just a brief glimpse at the dinosaurs in our collection. Dinosaurs: Monster Families opens on Saturday 13 February with a new family of dinosaurs for you to meet, as well as a discovery pit and the chance to touch a real dinosaur leg bone.

Tickets are on sale online from 1 February, with members enjoying free and unlimited visits to the exhibition.

Creating London's Urban Jungle

Curator and researcher for London's Urban Jungle, Elle Larson, tells about her experience creating the display.


I’ve always been inquisitive about nature and researching the history of the exotic animal trade has allowed me to understand more about the history behind zoological institutions and museums, as well as our changing relationships with nature and the legacies of Empire.

It was really a chance discovery, but it has completely changed the focus of my work as a historian. I have been visiting archives ever since to try and complete the difficult task of piecing together Jamrach’s extraordinary life and his own involvement in the Victorian exotic animal trade.

At first, I started with a sweep of newspaper articles, primarily via The Times Digital Archive, to get more of an idea about what Jamrach did and how far reaching his reputation was. It soon became clear that he was somewhat of a household name and a well-known figure in animal trading networks. So the next step was to review the online archive catalogues of institutions that I thought might have traded with Jamrach.

The Times Digital Archive

I began with the Natural History Museum, South Kensington and the Zoological Society of London, later expanding this search to the Horniman Museum and Gardens, Bristol Zoological Gardens and Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archive. This is only the tip of the iceberg, but my research is an ongoing process – so watch this space.

Unfortunately from what I can tell, no purchase ledgers or other business records for Jamrach’s have survived, so I spent time visiting archives for small traces of Charles and his business dealings, mainly piecing together information based on inward bound correspondence from Jamrach to these particular institutions.

Preparing the case for London's Urban Jungle

I also began combing through digital archives such as those on Ancestry.Com and the British Newspaper Archive online which revealed more personal details about Jamrach and his family. For example, one report recalls how Jamrach’s wife disliked him keeping snakes under the bed, even in winter. Another recalls a law case brought against Jamrach for breaching his contract in regard to selling a Portuguese dealer a crocodile.

Looked at together, these sources all began to bring Charles to life and gave me insight into him as a person as well as a businessman, which hopefully London’s Urban Jungle is now able to share with you.

London's Urban Jungle

Co-curator and researcher of London's Urban Jungle, Elle, describes our new exhibition.

Curating London’s Urban Jungle together with the Horniman has been a fantastic experience. I hope that visitors take away as much from viewing the exhibit as I have from the process of putting it together.

My research began with asking how zoological and natural history collections grew so rapidly during the nineteenth century and I could not have anticipated what I would uncover once I delved into the world of the exotic animal trade and its weird and fascinating history.

The exhibit focuses on one of the most renowned animal dealers of the Victorian period, Charles Jamrach, and his business on the Ratcliffe Highway in London’s East End.

Jamrach sold animals to a range of customers - as pets, as scientific specimens, as exhibits for zoological gardens and private collections, while those who sadly did not survive, may have become skeletons and taxidermy mounts sold to museums and collectors of a different kind. The taste for zoomorphic furniture springs to mind here - not your normal taxidermy that adorned Victorian homes, but more bizarre items such as monkey candlesticks and chairs made from giraffes and elephants.

There was a huge demand for exotic animals – both dead and alive.


My research has involved examining correspondence sent between Jamrach and his customers as well as periodicals and articles from the time. However the majority of the stories featured in the exhibit are taken from newspaper reports published online by the British Newspaper Archive.

I had great fun scanning through the reports and there are many more that didn’t make the cut – but I think my particular favourite is the one that involves talking parrot Sarah and her theft, which unravels once she’s sold to Jamrach by the thief and later identified by her owner when he goes to buy a replacement!

London's Urban Jungle is on display in the Natural History Gallery until 21st February 2016.

The Horniman and Pepys

The Horniman has loaned three musical instruments to a major new exhibition celebrating the life and times of Samuel Pepys at the National Maritime Museum.

Samuel Pepys: Plague, Fire, Revolution has brought together a wealth of paintings, manuscripts and artefacts to explore the period from the execution of King Charles I in 1649 to the Glorious Revolution in 1688.

They are exploring a formative era which saw the repositioning of the monarchy and the consolidation of Britain’s place as a maritime, economic and political force on the world stage. It coincides with the 400th anniversary of the Queen’s House, one of London’s most important buildings sitting at the heart of Stuart Greenwich and now the Royal Museums Greenwich.

The exhibition uses the voice and experiences of Pepys, one of the most colourful and appealing personalities of the age. Pepys is well known as a passionate diarist and prolific correspondent, but the exhibition also looks at his character as a master naval administrator, a well-connected socialite, gossip, and lover of music, theatre and fine living.

Music is very important to his story as one of his abiding passions – he played, composed and was an amateur teacher. He is known to have played the played the flageolet, guitar and lute – the three artefacts we have loaned to the exhibition. The Horniman’s instruments play an important role illustrating the types of instruments from this period he may have played.

Samuel Pepys: Plague, Fire, Revolution is on at the National Maritime Museum until the 28th March 2016.

About the Art: Mark Fairnington, Collected and Possessed

We caught up with Mark Fairnington to discuss his new exhibiton Collected and Possessed which contains the piece Nest.

How did you decide which pieces would go in the exhibition?

The central focus of this exhibition is museums and storage, so in addition to the Horniman I worked with the Wellcome and Natural History Museum, London. I wanted to create links, for Natural History Museum and the Horniman there is an animal theme, whereas the Wellcome Collection introduced human pieces as well. I was also inspired by the idea of 'a collection', for example my series of bulls are a collection that I have made.

I am interested in the idea of the museum as a repository of knowledge and a jumping off point for the imagination

One of my favourites is 'Nest', how did you find this object and what inspired you to paint this?

I like that there is something very caring in the way the dog has been packed, there's no sense of death and it is then animated by being painted. Some of the objects are more disturbing.

Mark Fairnington's 'Nest'

The detail is extraordinary, do you prefer to use a certain type of paint or brush to achieve this?

I prefer to use very fine brushes, spotter brushes and rigger brushes, which have very thin, long bristles to make fine lines. I like the obsessive attention to detail across the whole portrait, it's uncanny and slightly strange. It has a surreal effect, like something that has been heightened, similar to HD.

The taxidermy terrier that inspired 'Nest' is also on display in the exhibition

Unlike some of the other pieces, 'Nest' has a background, for example the bulls don't, why did you adopt this style?

Once I pick a specimen I would like to work with, I set up a photography day so there are photos of it from different angles, in this case in and out of the box; photography is a way of imagining all the possibilities. He looked awkward out of his box, and I was very aware he was stuffed, I didn't want that, I wanted a comfortable feel.

The title of the exhibition, 'Possessed' also responds to the idea of the spirit of the object that is released by the imagination of the people looking at it

Do you have a favourite piece or a piece that you felt particularly inspired by in the exhibition?

From the Horniman, I found the monkey face covered in plastic received lots of comments from viewers. I like to then go and look at it again, the creative process can be a bit dispassionate so it is good to revisit a work.


Collected and Possessed, a new exhibition

Last night the Horniman was a hive of activity as we held the private view of our beautiful new exhibition with artist Mark Fairnington, 'Collected and Possessed'.

It was a great chance for art lovers, funders and Benefactors of the Horniman to get up close to the vast canvases that Mark has produced.

The exhibition is a wonderful collaboration between an artist and a museum, and Mark has managed to bring objects from our stores, many of which are rarely seen even by our behind-the-scenes staff, and present them in breath-taking detail.

One of my favourite pieces is Prodigy, which is displayed opposite two life-size paintings of imposing bulls. Unlike the bovine counterparts, Prodigy is an intimate snapshot of an eye, rendered in hyper-realism, with very fine detail that highlights each individual hair.

My favourite piece, Prodigy

The painting is so detailed even the eye reflects a figure back at the viewer, encouraging you to evaluate and reconsider the idea of looking at an object, and it looking back.

This exhibition is also a first for the Horniman, as it was a generously crowd funded by our fans with the support of the Art Fund. The exhibition opens November 28th until January 24th, so be sure not to miss it, whether you love art, the Horniman, or both, this exhibition is a must see.

To help support our future exhibitions, why not become a member or donate to the Horniman, information here

West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song

The British Library has put together a new exhibition on the power of the word – written, spoken and sung – in West Africa, and the Horniman has contributed by lending items from both the Anthropology and Musical Instruments collections.

The exhibition opened to coincide with Black History month earlier this year, and is exploring a range of fascinating stories from the region’s 17 nations. Focusing on West African history, life and culture over the last three centuries, it covers from the great African empires of the Middle Ages to the cultural dynamism of West Africa today.

Using a range of collections they have looked at text, story and writing and how words can be used to build and change societies, to challenge and resist, and sustain life and dignity. The exhibition highlights the rich manuscript heritage of West Africa and the coming of printing, as well as oral genres, past and modern.

The Horniman has loaned a talking drum and lamellaphone from our Musical Instruments collection and a Bwa plank mask, Gelede mask and divination board from our Anthropology collection to help bring the printed and written works to life.

West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song is on at the British Library until Tue 16 Feb 2016

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