[Skip to content] [Skip to main navigation] [Skip to user navigation] [Skip to global search] [Accessibility information] [Contact us]

Previous Next
of 49 items

A shrine to pencils

Today is National Pencil Day.

This wonderful day is observed each year on 30 March because, apparently, Hymen Lipman registered the first patent for attaching a rubber – or eraser to our American friends – to the end of a pencil on this day in 1858.

The holiday is a US tradition, but we thought we would use it this year as an excuse to tell you about the pencils we found while decanting our Galleries.

Last year, our African Worlds Gallery closed as we started the exciting process of turning the space into our new World Gallery. To do this, we needed to decant the Gallery and move all the objects back into storage.

  • A shrine to pencils, A shrine during the decant of the African Worlds Gallery.
    A shrine during the decant of the African Worlds Gallery.

As we took down our shrines, we realised that there were a few more objects inside them than had been there originally.

It seems that visitors had been popping pencils and other items through the small holes at the bottom of the cases.

  • A shrine to pencils, A small, pencil-sized hole in the case.
    A small, pencil-sized hole in the case.

While we decanted the cases, our team took an inventory of the number of extra items that had been ‘added’ to the shrine. We present this here.

Haitian Vodou shrine:

1 pencil

Brazilian Candomble shrine:

14 pencils

1 hairclip

1 crayon wrapper

And the winner by a mile…

Benin Mammi Wata shrine:

58 pencils

1 biro

1 twig

1 plastic lolly stick

As you can see, that is a total number of 73 pencils added to our shrines. 

Our team enjoyed these 'offerings' and made sure they were recycled and put to good use. 

  • A shrine to pencils, So many pencils.
    So many pencils.

Stories of Ganesha

Dotted Line Theatre tell us about 'Stories of Ganesha', their storytelling performance happening on 5 April as part of our Big Wednesday

‘The show includes three stories about Ganesha, 'How he came to have the head of an elephant' and two others (I don't want to ruin the surprise about which ones they are). They are introduced by a storyteller guide and a surprise cheeky accomplice, who has his own agenda.

One of our challenges has been that there are many different versions of each story, and who's to say which version is the definitive one. So we've tried to balance presenting a clear narrative with providing some alternative details.

  • Stories of Ganesha, A sketch for part of the design.
    A sketch for part of the design.

The show is lyrical and visually beautiful and there is some comedy too. I took my inspiration from the stories themselves and thought about the best way of using visual language to present both the drama within the stories and the different layers of meaning.

We are using a fusion of styles, blending together some Classical Indian dance with shadow puppetry, rod puppetry and some object puppetry using objects from the Museum collection.’

  • Stories of Ganesha, A test of a shadow puppet for the show.
    A test of a shadow puppet for the show.

About Dotted Line Theatre

The performers are: dancer Maanasa Visweswaran, puppeteers Jum Faruq, Ajjaz Awad and Almudena Calvo Adalia.

Dotted Line Theatre was formed in 2012 by Rachel Warr, a theatre director, writer and puppeteer. Dotted Line Theatre create original pieces with a playful quality and a strong visual style. Rachel's work includes productions at The Barbican Centre, Little Angel Theatre, New Wolsey Theatre, Underbelly, and festivals in Prague, Berlin, France and Singapore. This will be our third production for the Horniman Museum and Gardens and we are delighted to be back.

A new full-length show!

Last summer we performed a piece called ‘Stories on a String’ at the Horniman as part of their Festival of Brasil.

The show was inspired by Brazilian Literatura de Cordel (literally translated as 'stories on string'). These are booklets with woodblock printed covers, sharing stories and news to the masses, sold at markets from carts. Literatura de Cordel are also an oral tradition performed through music and poetry. In our show, these wood block pictures came to life as puppets to tell the story of a young girl from the city on a quest for her grandmother through the Amazon forest. With music and song from Rachel Hayter (a composer/ musician who studied and specialises in music of Brazil) and the talented Camilo Menjura.

It was a 25-minute piece and we are going to be developing it into a full-length show that we can tour, for which we have some funding from the Arts Council England and some support in kind from the Little Angel Theatre. We are also fundraising to make up the rest of our financial target. See our Kickstarter campaign for more information.

Storytelling in a flash

This week is National Storytelling Week (28 Jan - 4 Feb 2017), a time to celebrate tales and yarns from the around the world. 

Stories come in all shapes and forms. They might appear when you have a conversation with a friend. They can be conjured up when cosying down with a new book. They can be told around campfires. They can even be created on Twitter.

Wait.... Twitter? With only 140 characters? 

Yes! Flash fiction, twitterature, 140-character stories, six-word-stories. Whatever you want to call it, telling a story in just a few words is a test in brevity and ingenuity.

Short stories have a long history from ancient times right through to the modern era and they are often seen as powerful things as they often hint at a larger story.

  • Japanese Fairy Tales, Japanese Fairy Tales in the Horniman Library
    Japanese Fairy Tales in the Horniman Library

To put the idea of short stories to the test, we asked children's author Margaret Bateson-Hill to come up with just six words that describe traditional fairy tales and nursery rhymes. 

Margaret rose to the challenge brilliantly. Here are her six-word fairytales:

Sleeping Beauty:

Centenarian princess receives kiss of life

Snow White:

Red blood, red apple, red shoes

Cinderella:

Lost glass slipper is perfect match

Frog Prince

Frog in golden ball kiss swap

The Princess and the Pea:

Pea'd off at loss of sleep

 Humpty Dumpty:

Humpty cracks up over wall fall

Can you think of any six-word-stories? Share yours with us on Twitter

Book now for a special storytelling workshop in our Hands on Base this Sunday with Margaret Bateson-Hill, where we will help families discover their inner writing talents with inspiration from our Handling Collection. 

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

Previous Next
of 49 items