We asked Emily, who works in our Learning Department, about her favourite object in the Horniman - a Brazil nut seed pod.
“What is your favourite object?”
This Brazil nut pod in the Hands on Base is my favourite object because it just baffles people. I wouldn't normally start a conversation by saying what this object is, I would ask people to tell me what they think and try to encourage them to work it out.
What's really interesting about it is that it has been carved back and someone has drilled holes in it so that you can see the Brazil nuts inside. It doesn't look exactly as it would look on the tree and people have all sorts of ideas as to what they think it might be.
‘What have people thought it was?’
It's really tactile, lots of people think it's a toy, they don't know what is necessarily inside. Some people have tried to get the seeds out. My question would be, how did someone get them in? Lots of people think it's a musical instrument like a shaker.
I'm not 100% sure whether it was made to demonstrate that this is a seed pod or whether it was made for decoration.
It usually it takes people quite a while to guess.
‘Why have you chosen it? ’
The thing I personally like about it is that it has some really interesting stories and links that I can make in teaching sessions. This Brazil nut pod grows on a tree in Brazil; it only exists because the tree is pollinated by a very particular insect which also depends on orchids.
Now, the orchids that live in the area are being destroyed and although the Brazil nut trees have been protected by law, all of the eco-system around the Brazil nut tree isn't protected. A lot of the areas around the Brazil nut trees are being cut down, the orchids are being cut down.
This means the insect pollinator doesn't have the orchids and can't pollinate the trees. So the trees, despite being protected, are dying.
It's a really interesting story and a message to us to think holistically about our environments and the interactions between them.