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Curiocity: In Pursuit of London

Take part in a cultural treasure hunt around London.

  • Walrus Tile, The Horniman Walrus tile is hiding somewhere in our Museum. Track it down and its clues will help you in the Curiocity treasure hunt.
    The Horniman Walrus tile is hiding somewhere in our Museum. Track it down and its clues will help you in the Curiocity treasure hunt.

Everyone knows that the Horniman Walrus lives on top of an iceberg in the middle of the Natural History Gallery.

But did you know there is a second, very small walrus also located somewhere in the Museum?

Hidden somewhere in our Museum is a tile with a drawing of the walrus. This tile is part of a treasure hunt. Six tiles are located in various cultural places around London.

You can find clues to the locations of these tiles on p.449 of the book Curiocity: In Pursuit of London.

  • Curiocity: In Pursuit of London, The Horniman is mentioned in the book Curiocity:In Pursuit of London
    The Horniman is mentioned in the book Curiocity:In Pursuit of London

  • Curiocity: In Pursuit of London, Beware traveller of the Horniman Walrus!
    Beware traveller of the Horniman Walrus!

Gather up all the clues on these tiles and they will take you to a secret location where you can inscribe your name on to a winner’s list which will be included in future reprints of the book.

Good luck!

How to make felt animals

One of our Volunteers, Genevieve, has been inspired by the Horniman collections to make her own animals. Her tiny harvest mouse has stolen our hearts. Find out how she went about making them look realistic. 

'Being part of the engage volunteer team, I have been able to encourage children to look more carefully at animals though the handling collection. I’ve also helped them learn by asking them questions and encouraging them to feel and experience the animal. I have seen the wonder and excitement at being able to touch the soft fur of a wild rabbit and the hard sharp teeth of a lion amongst other treasures.

I have also been learning myself about the animals in the Natural History Gallery and the Nature Base. From day one of my Volunteering, I fell in love with the live harvest mice in the Nature Base and rushed home to try and make one of my own.

  • Felt harvest mouse, The inspiration for this felt creation is the harvest mouse in the Horniman Nature Base
    The inspiration for this felt creation is the harvest mouse in the Horniman Nature Base

I learnt about their prehensile tails which curl around the straw or grass they live in. They make spherical nests which they weave out of dry grass. The lucky Horniman mice have a fantastic home with a couple of tennis balls to hide in, which you can see in their glass case.

I made my own mouse using a wire, felting wool and even some bits of an old brush for whiskers. I wanted him to look like the taxidermy examples in the Museum so I mounted him on some pieces of wheat!

  • Felt harvest mouse, By attaching the felt mouse to straw it makes it look like it is in its natural habitat
    By attaching the felt mouse to straw it makes it look like it is in its natural habitat

One of my favourite animals is the gecko. This is a picture of a family pet, a leopard geko, which I tried to copy.

  • leopard gecko, The pet family leopard gecko
    The pet family leopard gecko

I started with a frame made out of wire to get the general shape of the animal. Then, I wrapped it up with string to make a “bind” just as a taxidermist does. Wool is then wrapped around to build up the body then the process of needle felting helps to add details and definition to the limbs. The needle felting needle has tiny notches along it to help tangle and mesh the wool fibres together.

  • How to make felt animals, A wire 'skeleton' lies at the heart of the animal and is covered in felt
    A wire 'skeleton' lies at the heart of the animal and is covered in felt

I used glass beads as eyes. I tried to get all the spot patterns to match the photograph of the real gecko. I also used the exhibits in the gallery to check to see that I had the gecko leg shapes correct and found out about a gecko which can fly!

  • Felt geko, The finished felt geko
    The finished felt geko

  • Felt polar bear, Another felt creation - a polar bear
    Another felt creation - a polar bear

I have just been given a full fleece of Jacob’s sheep wool and will try to copy some of the skills of the nomadic people by wet felting the wool to make some slippers for winter! You can see some Inuit socks on the Horniman website which are made by wet felting. This fabric is still made into objects such as hats, clothing, tents, bags and rugs.'

  • Felt elephant, A felt elephant with a lovely long trunk
    A felt elephant with a lovely long trunk

Mysterious matters at the Magic Late

On 13 October 2016, we opened our doors after hours for an evening of magic, sorcery and folklore. 

We had our whole English charm collection on display in the Hands On Base where visitors could see them up close and talk to Tom, our Anthropology Curator about them. 

We were also taking photos of the modern charms our visitors brought with them. We plan on using these charms for a specially-curated display in our new World Gallery

Also in the Hands On Base, we had a fantastic talk about Magic Wands from Philip Carr Gomm, Chosen Chief of The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. We learnt about A.W. Rowlett, the old English wizard or ‘cunning man’ who collected many of our charms. We also experienced a specially commissioned work by artist Martha McGuinn and sound installation by artist and researcher Rachel Emily Taylor

In Gallery Square, we had a moving performance of 'She Who Walks' by Denise Rowe which paid honor to the women connected to the land who were persecuted during the witch hunts of the Middle Ages. 

We enjoyed watching the short film 'The Kingdom of Paul Nash' with live music to accompany it in our Conservatory, which was organised by the Cabinet of Living Cinema.

Our Museum was overrun by a wandering pigeon who led people to the Natural History Gallery where there was a specially-comissioned opera installation by Gestalt Arts called 'Feet', written from the point of view of a rock dove who's feet are one of the charms in our collection. 

The Natural History Gallery also saw our Deputy Natural History Keeper Emma-Louise Nicholls take visitors on a tour of the Gallery, pointing out links our specimens have with all things mysterious and magical.

Outside in the Gardens, Annie Horniman (aka Oliva Armstrong) was leading candlelit tours to the Bandstand where she told the tale of her life, the history of the Horniman and the occult. 

See some of the pictures our visitors' shared from the night

What's your favourite 60s Rock song?

The Museu da Imigração in São Paulo Brazil have been inspired to put on an English-themed music concert in their Gardens.

  • Museum of Immigration, Music in the Garden concert at the Museum of Immigration − ©  Museu da Imigracao
    Music in the Garden concert at the Museum of Immigration

This summer we had a Brazilian theme to our events and exhibitions. Our Festival of Brasil celebrated the South American country in all its many colours and diversities.

We met and worked with many Brazilian partners – artists, musicians, dancers and other museums. One museum we worked with is the Museu da Imigração (Museum of Immigration) in São Paulo in Brazil. We discovered that we have similar events to the Museu da Imigração.

Throughout July and August we put on Jazz Picnics and Sunday Bandstand concerts where we celebrated the diversity of Brazilian music, from Samba to Forró, Tropicália to MPB, and Bossa Nova to Choro.

The Museu da Imigração have similar events in their Gardens. Their Música no Jardim (Music in the Gardens) concerts happen once a month and focus on a different theme or place each time. We love seeing the similarities and differences between our events!

As a way of connecting with us, they are going to use one of their Music in the Gardens concerts to focus on English Music – much like our summer concerts focused on Brazilian music.

Their band, Vitroux, will be playing 60s British Rock songs. Their set list will include:

1. Heart Full of Soul - Yardbirds

2. We've Gotta Get Out of this Place - The Animals

3. Ask Me Why - The Beatles

4. Please Please Me - The Beatles

5. Waterloo Sunset - The kinks

6. Afternoon Tea - The Kinks

7. Worksong  - The Animals

8. Blue Feeling - The Animals

9. Wild Thing - The Troggs  

10. Under my Thumb - The Rolling Stones

11. Cool Calm and Collected - The Rolling Stones

12. Chains - The Beatles

13. Tattoo - The Who

14. Our Love Was - The Who

15. My Generation - The Who

We want you to have your say and vote for your favourite song from their list. Which song do you think sums up British music from the 60s? Do you think there are any vital songs they have forgotten?

You can vote by writing your comments on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. We will then share your comments with the Museu da Imigração.

Inspired by Anna Atkins

Today is Ada Lovelace day when we celebrate women in science, technology, engineering and maths.

Our Librarian, Helen Williamson, is here to tell us about her work with our community partners creating beautiful cyanotypes inspired by Anna Atkins.

  • Inspired by Anna Atkins, Cyanotype made by Shaftesbury Clinic, Springfield Hospital.
    Cyanotype made by Shaftesbury Clinic, Springfield Hospital.

‘We have written about Anna Atkins before on Ada Lovelace day but it’s a great opportunity to talk about her again, the beautiful book we hold in the library and the wonderful process of making cyanotypes.

The cyanotype was invented by Sir John Herschel in 1842. He was a family friend of Atkins and a regular visitor at the family home in Kent. Atkins was a keen artist, as well as an enthusiastic botanist, and recognised that Herschel’s new invention, which required only a few chemicals, water and sunlight, offered an opportunity to approach botanical illustration in a different way.

  • Inspired by Anna Atkins, Cyanotype made by Aisling from the Horniman Youth Panel.
    Cyanotype made by Aisling from the Horniman Youth Panel.

In 1843, she started work producing the cyanotypes that would make up Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions. It is considered to be the first ever photographically illustrated book and we are very lucky to have a copy in our library which was previously owned by the museum’s founder, Frederick Horniman.

To make a cyanotype, objects are placed on a sheet of chemically treated paper and then exposed to sunlight. The length of exposure depends upon how bright a day it is. Once exposed, the paper is washed in water and dried, with the colour fully developing when dry.

The process of creating cyanotypes is almost unchanged since Anna Atkins was making her book, and it creates remarkably stable prints. Most early photographic prints have deteriorated completely by now or need to be kept in strict, environmentally-controlled storage. Cyanotypes, on the other hand, have endured amazingly well. The colours in our copy of her Photographs of British Algae are beautifully vivid and the paper is robust enough for handling and display.

  • Inspired by Anna Atkins, Cyanotype made by David Quan from Redstart Arts.
    Cyanotype made by David Quan from Redstart Arts.

Over the summer the library and the learning team ran an engagement project with a number of our community partners who were challenged to make cyanotypes of their own, inspired by Anna Atkins and using the botanical world around them. This is some of the beautiful work they produced.

  • Inspired by Anna Atkins, Cyanotype made by Eliot Bank Museum Club.
    Cyanotype made by Eliot Bank Museum Club.

  • Inspired by Anna Atkins, Cyanotype made by Esther and Maya from the Horniman Youth Panel.
    Cyanotype made by Esther and Maya from the Horniman Youth Panel.

  • Inspired by Anna Atkins, Cyanotype made by L.G, Arts Network.
    Cyanotype made by L.G, Arts Network.

  • Inspired by Anna Atkins, Cyanotype made by the Stroke Association.
    Cyanotype made by the Stroke Association.

A book of all of the cyanotypes made during this project is available to view in the library, alongside other material about Anna Atkins.

Visit one of our Library Open Days on the first Sunday of every month, or book an appointment.

Poems to the Walrus

Write the Walrus a poem or lines, he will love it as long as it rhymes. 

Yesterday, 6 October 2016, was National Poetry Day. People across the country took to Twitter to write lines of verse that fit into 140 characters. 

The Walrus has his own Twitter account - @hornimanwalrus - and one poem especially caught his eye...

Soon, people from all over were tweeting their #PoemstotheWalrus. 

Here are some that particularly tickled us:

The Walrus even had a go at writing his own verse...

...and tried his hand at a haiku. 

Share your #PoemstotheWalrus with us on Twitter

Making History: Horniman Youth Panel and Patrick Hough

The Horniman Youth Panel set out to explore how Egyptian culture and history is represented in Hollywood Movies.

We learned to think critically about the film props in these movies while having a chance to experiment with script writing, directing voice acting and basic filmmaking techniques with the video artist Patrick Hough.

The workshop began with a brief introduction to Patrick’s artistic practice, looking at early photography on Hollywood film sets in Morocco, to newer video works that use film props and green screen backdrops. We then briefly looked at a range of short clips from films depicting Egypt, ranging from the fantastical to the historically accurate and discussed the visual elements from the sets, costumes and props, lighting while comparing and contrasting the different ways Egypt has been shown on film.

Later on, we worked with real physical film props loaned from a London prop house that are used in Egyptian movies. We explored their different material qualities – comparing them to the amazing Ancient Egyptian objects in our Hands on Base. We also discussed the varying degrees of accuracy these objects have in portraying cultures.

Finally, we broke up into two groups to develop a short script together. We were given a chance to create our own short film scene that gave a voice to the film prop and placed it in a theatrical context.

Participants directed the voice acting, choose the camera angles, light the scene and create direction notes for the editor.

Here are the final results – we hope you like them!

Find out how you can get involved with our Youth Panel

Afghani kite-making at the museum

This summer we held a kite-making workshop in association with one of our community partners, Southwark Day Centre for Asylum Seekers. The leader of our workshop, Ahmadzia, tells us more about this fun event. 

My name is Ahmadzia and I am a kite maker from Afghanistan. On the 27 July I had the pleasure of being invited to lead a workshop on kite-making at the Horniman.

It was a beautiful summers day and the wind was great for kite flying. I was happy to see that many people came to the workshop, both children and adults.

At the start of the workshop I gave a quick introduction to the making of kites and then everyone had a chance to make their own. We used lots of different coloured paper to make each kite unique and personal.

We then took our kites to the top of the hill in the beautiful Horniman Gardens and all flew them together.

Kite making and flying is a traditional pastime in Afghanistan, where I was born. Kite fliers of all ages come together to display the kites they have made and sometimes even compete against each other by trying to cut down each other's kites.

To see more of me making and flying a kite watch this short film.

GUDIPARAN from Nima Shahmalekpur on Vimeo.

Pokemon IRL – Teen Takeover Day 2016

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!’

You can read our Storify of the Youth Panel’s tweets as well as Kids in Museums’ Storify of all the tweets from museums across the country.

Find out more about how to get involved with our Youth Panel.

Pokémon’s Pikachu invades Horniman Museum

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.

Of the 142 possible characters you can currently catch, they range in rarity from Pidgey which is as common as, well pigeons, to ones so rare they cause grown men to abandon their cars in the middle of the road and cause widespread chaos.

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.

  • Pikachu Army, This Pikachu Army was caught at the Horniman Museum over just a couple of days
    This Pikachu Army was caught at the Horniman Museum over just a couple of days

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.

  • Pikachu in a bird case, The Shelduck on the left looks startled by the sudden appearance of a bright yellow Pokemon
    The Shelduck on the left looks startled by the sudden appearance of a bright yellow Pokemon

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.

  • Pikachu Jumping, Pikachu seems to get very excited about seeing the Dodo in the Natural History Gallery
    Pikachu seems to get very excited about seeing the Dodo in the Natural History Gallery

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.

  • Pikachu on desk, I think he wants to join my array of mascots
    I think he wants to join my array of mascots

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.

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