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Hot Stuff at the Horniman

Wes, our Head of Horticulture, shows us how the Gardens team got on when they tried growing some of the hottest chillies around.

Growing chillies is cool. It’s easy, and loads of fun, especially if they’re the proper hot ones!

Earlier in the year the Gardens team at the Horniman ordered a selection of seeds to grow our own plants, including the notorious ‘Trinidad Scorpion’ and the evil ‘Carolina Reaper’, currently the hottest varieties in the world. Gardens Keeper Alex and I are particularly fond of a hot chilli so it was all for a bit of fun rather than producing a bespoke display for the Gardens.

Seeds were sown in March in a heated greenhouse, germination rates were good and they were then potted on into 3.5in pots, they grew well over the summer: chilli plants love heat, lots of sun and regular feeding, and as a result we grew some magnificent plants that produced a lot of fruit.

It was about this time we learnt about Spitalfields City Farm’s Annual Festival of Heat from Amy in our Learning team. Amy arranged for us to have a stall on the day and display some of our plants including the world’s hottest, the Carolina Reaper. The idea was to showcase our plants and advise visitors how to grow and care for theim. We also wanted to know if there were any brave volunteers to try some fruit....there weren’t, apart from Gardens Keeper Alex who took one for the team - literally!

It was a great day and really well organised event by the guys at Spitalfields.

In October we harvested all our remaining fruit and Horniman Café Chef Jason is producing our very own chilli chutney which will be available to buy in the Café and at our Farmers’ Market held every Saturday on the Bandstand Terrace.

We look forward to seeing you there.

Busy with Busy Bees

Busy Bees, our lively sessions for under-5s, are returning next week and it's important time for the Horniman's Learning team. Aaron, one of the Horniman's Learning Assistants, reflects on what everyone has gained from this regular event over the years.

Being a Learning Assistant for the Horniman Learning team is necessarily a hectic and unruly role, supporting across schools, community learning and volunteering sections. Change is as good as a rest they say but in our ever-developing department the familiar becomes endearing and is one of the reasons that our long-running Busy Bees sessions are a highlight in my otherwise hectic week.

We work with a wonderful team of storytellers, who are also authors, musicians and performers, and they have gathered a dedicated regular following and continue to surprise first timers. It has been a real pleasure to get to know some of our parents and watch their children grow up attending Busy Bees sessions over the years.

Everyone who comes has a great time whether they are under 5 or much much older, here is what they have told us recently:

Fantastic session for mixed age children – baby and toddler – feel so welcome, comfortable and entertained (and educated!) Thank – you.

Such an awesome resource! My eldest loves it – the songs and participation are just excellent

We love the busy bees sessions. I have been bringing my son since he was 8months old – he .... still gets joy from busy bees along with his 4year old sister. Great interactive sessions.

The girls and I always love busy bees, it’s always really engaging and fun for the girls... They  thoroughly enjoy the session as they re-enact  parts of the story they’ve heard afterwards. Thanks!

One of the strengths of this programme is how flexible it is but, as with all regular activities, it can be subject to changes so do please check the website for timings. Also, although we do not encourage early queuing with early years children, if you want to attend the first session you will still need to arrive fairly promptly to get a ticket.

The new season of Busy Bees gets underway on Tuesday 16 September with 3 sessions held every Tuesday and Wednesday (with some exceptions). Check the event page for more details.

Share your #HornimanMemories

This month at the Horniman we're looking for our visitors to send us their favourite memories of the museum and gardens, to create a collection of #HornimanMemories.

Whether it's the first time you laid eyes on the Horniman Walrus, discovering the view of the London skyline from our Bandstand, or getting your hands on real museum objects in our Hands on Base, we want you to share all your favourite Horniman moments.

To add your memories to the project visit Twitter or Instagram and share using the #HornimanMemories hashtag. You could share a story, a feeling, or even a photo from a previous visit. We'll be using the hashtag to find all the memories shared and collect them together using Storify.

At the end of the month, we'll be selecting our three favourites and offering their owners a year's free Horniman Membership, including free access to the Aquarium and special exhibitions, as well as plenty of other perks, so you can continue to create even more memories here at the Horniman.

We'll also be sharing some of our own #HornimanMemories throughout the project, using pictures from the museum archives to reveal moments from the museum's past. Look out for these on our Twitter account.

#MuseumWeek: Get Involved

Last week we announced that the Horniman is taking part in the first ever #MuseumWeek. Organised by Twitter UK, the project aims to gather hundreds of museums across the UK and Europe together to celebrate how Twitter can help them connect people with art, culture, history and science in new ways.

For one week, starting on Monday 24 March, hundreds of museums will take to Twitter and share their stories using the project's daily hashtags as inspiration. Here's what we have planned at the Horniman:

Monday - #DayInTheLife

We're aiming to give our followers a look into the daily lives of as many museums departments as possible. Join us as we pop our heads into offices and join Horniman staff on the front lines. You can even take to tweeting yourself and let us now which parts of museum life you'd like to see.

Tuesday - #MuseumMastermind

It's time to swot up on your Horniman trivia as we pose quizzes and questions about our history and collection. We've also got a surprise up our sleeve so be prepared for a challenge.

Wednesday - #MuseumMemories

Join us to take a trip down memory lane as staff and visitors alike share their earliest memories of the Horniman. Have you been visiting since you were small or are we a recent discovery - we'd love to hear what's stuck in your mind.

Thursday - #BehindTheArt

This is a day to celebrate what goes on behind the scenes to keep our collections safe and get them out on display for the public to see. We'll be sharing all the hard work our staff do to make this happen.

Friday - #AskTheCurator

Ever wanted to know exactly what's inside the Walrus? How to tell the difference betwen a harpsichord and a clavichord? Or what it takes to care for our adorable alpacas? We have experts in areas all across the Horniman standing by to answer your questions.

Saturday - #MuseumSelfies

The museum theme of the moment is back, with a day dedicated to sharing your selfies taken in museums. The best kind, of course, being one with a walrus - why not use this weekend to snap a pic with our most famous resident? Make sure to include the #selfiewiththewalrus hashtag when you share it and it might even make it to our Pinterest board.

Sunday - #GetCreative

And finally, Sunday is a day to be inspired by our collections. We want to hear from you what your more unusual Horniman highlights are (after all, it's not all about the Walrus). What are your 'must-sees' for a visit and what would you include on a treasure trail around the Museum?

You can track the project using the #MuseumWeek hashtag or follow our account to see what we're sharing.

We'd love you to get involved and join the conversation: remember, if you're tweeting about Museums next week, don't forget to include the #MuseumWeek hashtag.

Extreme Curator: Dark

In Paolo's fifth and final #ExtremeCurator challenge, he found himself trying to navigate the Natural History Gallery here at the Horniman in complete darkness.

One of the environments explored in our Extremes exhibition, opening this weekend, is extreme darkness. Many animals live their entire lives without sunlight, and have adapted to survive without relying on their sight.

During his challenge, Paolo tried to adopt some of the techniques used by these animals to navigate his way to a ringing phone. He discovered that, in total darkness, even familiar places become strange and confusing.

Watch the video to see Paolo attempt echolocation, and hear him talk about some of the animals that are far better adapted to extreme darkness.

Paolo's #ExtremeCurator challenges have seen him face cold, heat, aridity, low loxygen levels, and now darkness. Watch all the challenge videos on Youtube or follow all the updates on Twitter.

Extremes opens at the Horniman on Saturday 15 February 2014. Tickets can be booked online.

Extreme Curator: Dry

After the humid heat of his hot yoga class, Paolo's next Extreme Curator challenge was to face the dry heat of the desert.

To experience the extreme environment of the Sahara Desert, we travelled to the Centre for Air Conditioning and Refridgeration Research at London South Bank University. Their environmental chamber can be brought down to an arid 20% relative humidity, while the temperature is cranked up to a toasty 43°C.

Once again, the human body's ability to sweat came into play, although this time in the dry air made it a far more effective strategy for keeping cool.

Watch the video to see why sweating isn't always such a good idea, and find out how other animals cope with dry desert conditions.

Spending a short time in these conditions wasn't too hard on our Extreme Curator, which hints a little at the fact that the human body is actually quite well-adapted to cope in the heat. This is in part due to the fact we as a species evolved in Africa, and have not lost our adaptations which allowed us to thrive in the continent's hot climates.

There is still one Extreme Curator challenge for Paolo to face before he has experience the full range from our upcoming Extremes exhibition. You can keep up with his adventures on Twitter or subscribe to our Youtube Channel to see the latest #ExtremeCurator updates.

Extremes opens at the Horniman on Saturday 15 February 2014. Tickets can be booked online.

Extreme Curator: Hot

With his cold and low oxygen challenges complete, this week it was time for our Extreme Curator to feel the heat.

Paolo bravely agreed to join a class at Hot Bikram Yoga, near London Bridge, in his Extreme Curator 'uniform' to experience some of the effects of heat on the human body.

The poses weren't the only challenge in the class; the room was heated to around 40°C, which encourages the body to relax and stretch further. Of course, it also encourages the human body to sweat, allowing us to see a very human adaptation to extreme heat.

Watch the video to see how Paolo coped with the heat and find out how other animals have adapted to extreme environments:

Paolo still has two more extreme environments from our upcoming Extremes exhibition to experience. You can keep up with his adventures on Twitter or subscribe to our Youtube Channel to see the latest #ExtremeCurator updates.

Extremes opens at the Horniman on Saturday 15 February 2014. Tickets can be booked online.

Extreme Curator: Low Oxygen

Yesterday our Extreme Curator completed the second of his challenges, this time venturing into The Altitude Centre to experience low oxygen concentrations.

Animals living at altitude have had to adapt to as little as 9.5% oxygen in the air they breathe, compared to around 21% at sea level. At the Altitude Centre that environment is replicated to help mountaineers acclimatise to conditions at Mount Everest’s base camp, as well as athletes who train at altitude to improve their performance under normal conditions.

Paolo's challenge involved him breathing air with an oxygen concentration equivalent  to what you would experience at almost 6,000 metres (over 19,000 feet) up some of the world's hgihest mountain ranges.

Watch the second #ExtremeCurator video to see how Paolo coped with 9.5% oxygen.

Click for a close up of Paolo's heart rate and oxygen levels during the challenge:

There are a few more environments featured in our upcoming Extremes exhibition which Paolo will be experiencing over the coming weeks. You can keep up with his adventures on Twitter or subscribe to our Youtube Channel to see the latest #ExtremeCurator updates.

Extremes opens at the Horniman on Saturday 15 February 2014. Tickets can be booked online.

Extreme Curator: Cold

Last week our Extreme Curator Paolo Viscardi ventured into the sub-zero temperatures of Icebar London to experience firsthand some of the challenges faced by animals living in extreme cold.

Icebar is the UK's only permenant bar made entirely of ice, with powerful air conditioning units which keep the temperature below freezing. For Paolo's challenge, Icebar was at a chilly -7°C.

Usually, Icebar's visitors are wrapped up warm and provided with a waterproof cloak. Paolo had no such luck, as he's completing all his extreme challenges in his shirtsleeves (don't try this at home/Icebar, folks).

Watch the video to see how our Extreme Curator got on in the cold.

Click on the image below for a close up comparison of Paolo's tiny label-writing at 21°C and -7°C:

Over the next few weeks, Paolo will be exploring other environments featured in our upcoming Extremes exhibition. You can keep up with his adventures on Twitter or subscribe to our Youtube Channel to see the latest #ExtremeCurator updates.

Extremes opens at the Horniman on Saturday 15 February 2014. Tickets can be booked online.

The Big Draw at the Horniman

A couple of weeks ago, the Horniman took part in the annual Big Draw event. This national campaign for drawing sees events spring up all over the UK to encourage people to have a go at drawing, and not just with pencils and paper.

At our Big Draw event, we asked visitors to first choose a word from our list, then to explore the galleries and choose an object that reminded them of their word. The creative bit came in when they were asked to draw their object and then use the drawing to create an artwork from wires and pipecleaners which joined together with everyone else's art to create a massive wire image.

The word choices were ‘love’, ‘memory’, ‘power’, ‘belief’, ‘safety’ and ‘exchange’. Can you guess which word inspirec each of these images?

Some visitors spent their time making faithful reproductions of objects from the collection.

While some chose to set their creativity free and created images not strictly related to the Horniman.

But it wasn’t just about fun and creativity. Events like these are a fantastic opportunity for us to learn from our visitors. For instance, ‘love’ was the run-away winner in the popularity stakes: over half the participants chose this word. Words like ‘safety’ and ‘exchange’ were not chosen nearly as often. Stats like these help us learn which ideas are important to people, and which we should be exploring further.

It also helps to highlight popular objects from the collections: many people chose to recreate masks on display in African Worlds and the Centenary Gallery.

What we learn from events like the Big Draw will be used to inform future developments at the museum so that our visitors can get the most out of the Horniman and its collections.

At the end of the day, all the artworks created were displayed in Gallery Square.

We’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who took part in this year’s Big Draw. Our learning team are always looking for more ways for our audience to participate in the museum’s future, and we hope to plan plenty more fun and creative events for the future.

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