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Ask a Curator Day 2016

This year, on Wednesday 14 September, we are taking part in Ask a Curator Day. This is where Museum Curators from all around the world answer your questions on Twitter.

If you have a burning question you want to ask, then you can tweet at us using @HornimanMuseum using the hashtag #AskaCurator.  

We have curators on hand to answer questions about musical instruments, natural history and anthropology. 

The curators we have to answer your questions are:

You can tweet in your questions at any time. We will then gather them up and answer as many as we can on 14 September. 

Specimen of the Month: The Three-Toed Sloth

Our Deputy Keeper of Natural History - Emma-Louise Nicholls - is back with her Specimen of the Month blog series to bring you closer to the specimens as well as the species for which each is an ambassador. Next up is...

The three-toed sloth

Olympic athlete

The scientific name for a three-toed sloth is Bradypus: Brady = slow and pus = feet. Not yellow fluid in this case.

Sloths are collectively the slowest mammals in the world, never in a hurry to do anything they wear their name with pride. In terms of speed - on the ground they are useless, but in the trees where they’re in their element… they’re also useless.

They move so slowly that algae is able to grow on their fur undisturbed by movement. Besides providing a rather fetching green tint to their otherwise unfashionable grey outfit, the algae also provides the sloth with a little extra camouflage.

  • Specimen of the Month - The Three-Toed Sloth, You can see the vivid green algae on the fur of this three-toed sloth in Costa Rica, D. Gordon
    You can see the vivid green algae on the fur of this three-toed sloth in Costa Rica, D. Gordon

They may be the slowest mammals in the world, but catching a sloth can still be a tricky affair.

In Central and South America where these sloths are found, indigenous people sometimes hunt them for food. Slow they are, but weak they aren’t. The sloths grip is so strong that not only can they sleep whilst still hanging upside down, but they can also stay hanging upside down after they die. This means that if one is speared or darted (or shot) there’s a strong chance it won’t fall to the ground immediately.

It can take several days for the flesh to decay enough for the locked digits to loosen their grip on the branch sufficiently for gravity to take over. By which time, the hungry hunter will have given up and found something else to eat.

  • Our three-toed sloth, Sloths can hang upside down whether they are old, young, asleep, awake, alive or dead
    Sloths can hang upside down whether they are old, young, asleep, awake, alive or dead

An old young sloth

We know our sloth is at least 111 years old, given it came to the Horniman in 1905 with the Samuel Prout Newcombe Collection.

The original specimen record described it as a young pale-throated sloth (Bradypus tridactylus), however it seems to lack the substantial markings on its facial fur characteristic of that species.

Unless the sloth’s fur has faded in highly isolated patches against the laws of physics (extremely unlikely), the markings on the back and more monotone face (not meaning to bruise its ego) suggest it’s probably a juvenile of the brown-throated sloth (Bradypus variegatus). With a good pair of glasses and some enthusiasm you can just make out the patterns on its fur in the image above.

Whatever species it turns out to be, the specimen definitely has three toes and is unequivocally a sloth, so three-toed sloth is still the correct genus and an accurate title for this blog. No science lies here.

  • Close up of our three-toed sloth, A lack of facial markings suggests the original identification may be incorrect
    A lack of facial markings suggests the original identification may be incorrect


ARKive (No date), Brown-throated three-toed sloth (Bradypus variegatus).

ARKive (No date), Pale-throated three-toed sloth (Bradypus variegatus).

National Geographic, (No date). Three-Toed Sloth (Bradypus variegatus)

Moraes-Barros, N., Chiarello, A., and Plese, T. (2014). Bradypus variegatus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2014

Suutari, M., Majaneva, M., Fewer, D. P., Voirin, B., Aiello, A., Friedl, T., Chiarello, A. G., and Blomster, J. (2010). Molecular evidence for a diverse green algal community growing in the hair of sloths and a specific association with Trichophilus welckeri (Chlorophyta, Ulvophyceae). BMC Evolutionary Biology 10 (86) pp.1.

Planting for pollinators: help save the bees and butterflies

Our new pollinator bed is designed to be a banquet for pollinating creatures like bees and butterflies. Andrea, our Gardner, shows us around the pollinator bed and tells us the best way to plant for pollinators at home.

This summer, you may have noticed a new border spring into life in the Gardens. Last autumn we started to plant up the bandstand terrace bed with herbaceous perennials, which began flowering in the spring, and are still going strong, creating a lovely splash of colour. As it is still the first year, some of the plants might look a bit sparse, but over the next couple of years, they will get bigger and fill out the bed.

This border contains about 50 different species of plants and has been designed to be attractive to pollinating insects. Pollinating insects like bees, hoverflies, moths and butterflies transfer pollen from one flower to another, helping the plants to fruit and set seed.

As farming practices have changed over the last few decades, there has been a steep decline in the wild flower population that was previously their main food source. As a result, many of their populations are in decline. This may result in problems in the future with food production, as so much of our food is reliant on plants being pollinated, so it is important to help them out.

  • Planting for pollinators: help save the bees and butterflies, Photo by Andrea Benson
    , Photo by Andrea Benson

There are many different pollinators, and there is no one plant that is a good food source for them all, which is why variety is important.

Some flowers, like those in the daisy family, are popular with a variety of pollinators. The flower head is made up of many small florets, each one a nectar source for the insects. This includes flowers like the Echinacea purpurea (Purple coneflower), and the Echinops ritro Veitch’s Blue (Southern globethistle).

  • Planting for pollinators: help save the bees and butterflies, Photo by Andrea Benson
    , Photo by Andrea Benson

Other flower shapes are not so simple. The Salvia guarantica ‘Black and Blue’ (Hummingbird sage) has lipped flowers with long tubes. Bumble bees and solitary bees use the lip as a landing platform and push their heads inside the flower to reach the nectar, coming back out with pollen covering their back.

Others, such as the Lychnis chalcedonica (Maltese cross), have their nectar deep inside a small tubular centre to the flower, which moths and butterflies are able to access with their long thin tongues.

As well as planting a variety of different plants, it’s a good idea to try and create a display that has a long flowering season – especially early and later in the year, when alternative nectar sources might be scarce. Winter/spring bulbs like Crocus, Galanthus nivalis (Snowdrop) and Eranthis hyemalis (Winter aconite) can provide a food source early on in the year, while plants such as Salvia and Rudbeckia (Coneflower), that continue flowering into the late summer and early autumn, cover the other end of the year.

  • Planting for pollinators: help save the bees and butterflies, Photo by Andrea Benson
    , Photo by Andrea Benson

  • Planting for pollinators: help save the bees and butterflies, Photo by Andrea Benson
    , Photo by Andrea Benson

Over the next few years, we’ll continue to tweak the planting display. We’ll be adding some more spring bulbs, as well as assessing how well the plants are doing, and replacing any that have died or are struggling. We’ll keep a good mix of variety and seasonal food source for the pollinators, as well as ensuring there is a long lasting and colourful display for all our visitors.

If you want to help out at home, you can. A list of pollinator friendly plants can be found on the Royal Horticultural Society website. By adding any of these plants to your garden, you’ll be doing your bit. You don’t even need much space. A window box full of spring bulbs or a pot with a couple of sunflowers in will be a welcome refreshment for the pollinators flying around your area.

Send us your pictures of pollinator-friendly plants using the hashtag #Horniman. 

The Pollinator boarder has been created with support from the Finnis Scott Foundation

Avian Forms: the artistic process

Artist Jane Edden tells us how she created the artwork in her Avian Forms exhibition.

Where do you get the feathers from to make your artwork?

I only use feathers that are by-products of food – chicken, pheasant, guinea fowl, and pigeon – the feathers that would normally get thrown away.

Pigeons have the most beautiful feathers, but no one would think of them as beautiful – especially in London where they look a bit scruffy. Some pheasant neck feathers are that iridescent blue you get on butterflies – it is absolutely incredible, but these feathers just get plucked and thrown away when the birds are prepared for cooking.

Tell us about the process of making your Flying Jackets.

  • About the Art: Jane Edden, 09 Piper PA-31 Navajo, 2012. 
Bird feathers and resin in perspex case
− © copyright: Jane Edden, courtesy of Flowers Gallery London and New York
    09 Piper PA-31 Navajo, 2012. Bird feathers and resin in perspex case

I get my feathers directly from the butchers before they are discarded, that way I can keep them in order and label them as I go. I can then recreate them as accurately as possible. I then freeze them to de-bug them in much the same way that museums freeze objects. So my freezer can sometimes be full of feathers.

The Flying Jackets are tiny. I only use the tip of the feathers. It is very intricate work so if I am sitting in my studio and anyone opens the door too fast and creates a gust, I get very frustrated!

I then make a little resin human form and start laying on a fringe of feathers from the bottom upwards. After that I use dental drills to drill the resin at the neck so you don’t ever see it. I try and create that perfect bird form, however, you can never lay the feathers on as beautifully as they are in nature – it is an impossibility.

How did you capture the Swan Arm photographs?

  • Avian Forms: the artistic process, 'Left Elbow' by Jane Edden− © copyright: Jane Edden, courtesy of Flowers Gallery London and New York
    'Left Elbow' by Jane Edden

The Swam Arms are photographs of swans grooming from above. What I did was feed the swans so that they were all full and happy, and once they are full they start grooming. I would go every day so they got used to me, and then I would go and photograph them from above standing on a bridge.

But to me the Swan Arms look like a person putting on a coat – the way your arm twists around when you reach back to insert your arm into a sleeve. And when you see that arm in the photograph, you can’t see anything else.

I am interested in the human-bird cross over and also myths throughout history. There are so many examples of birds turning into humans and visa-versa across cultures, such as Swan Lake.

What about the Icarus Birds? How did those images get made?

  • Avian Forms: the artistic process, 'Lift Off' by Jane Edden− © copyright: Jane Edden, courtesy of Flowers Gallery London and New York
    'Lift Off' by Jane Edden

I found a very skeletal bird which had died and fallen down my cousin’s chimney. I took the bird to the vets because they have a digital x-ray machine there. We then produced the digital images that I used by placing the bird skeleton in different positions.

I drew a lot of inspiration from the comparative anatomy drawings of Pierre Belon where he compares the human skeleton to that of a bird skeleton. I think it is very strange how human the bird skeleton looks – although they are more related to dinosaurs than humans.

I then added wires - linking the elbow to the foot as if it was going to pull the wing, which made it look even more human.

Cartilage doesn’t show up on x-rays very much so you get a slight shadow where the feathers would have been but not much more than that. So I added the feathers – which is where the artworks’ name Icarus Birds came in, because it gives the idea of strapping on feathers – a human able to fly.

See Avian Forms on display in the Natural History Gallery until the 9 October 2016.

Artist commission: Nature of South Asia display 2017

We are commissioning a visual artist interested in South Asia to display in our Natural History Gallery.

The Horniman Museum and Gardens in south east London houses important collections of anthropology, musical instruments, natural history, an acclaimed aquarium and 16 acres of gardens. The Museum welcomes around 900,000 visitors to the Museum and Gardens each year and is supported by a vibrant programme of events and activities.

In 2017, much of our public programme will be focused on South Asia. We have very rich historic collections from this part of the world and are seeking to complement this with a programme that expresses the diversity of practice across many art forms and its influence on contemporary culture in the UK.

To complement and add breadth to this programme and to draw in other collections in the Museum, we would like to commission a visual artist interested in South Asia, its environmental issues and the interactions between people and nature in the region, to produce an exciting and impactful intervention in the ‘Inspired by Nature’ area at the entrance to our Natural History Gallery. The work would comment upon, encourage participation in and stimulate dialogue and discussion around the scientific, social and cultural history, diversity, conservation and conflicts affecting the future preservation and protection of the natural environment in South Asia, bringing this to the attention of and making this relevant and accessible to the widest possible audience.

The display would link to our collections and appear alongside a beautiful taxidermy mount of a Bengal Tiger, which will also be on display in the entrance to the Natural History Gallery from May 2017.

The space: The space available for the work (either existing or new) includes a glass showcase suitable for the display of two or three-dimensional work, and in addition wall space, suitable for displaying two-dimensional work or display screens (see image below of Jane Edden’s work in the gallery). (Note: sound does not work well in this space).

  • Artist commission: Nature of South Asia inspired display 2017, Jane Edden's Avian Forms display in the 'Inspired by Nature' section of the Natural History Gallery
    Jane Edden's Avian Forms display in the 'Inspired by Nature' section of the Natural History Gallery

Fee and production of artwork: £3000. In addition to the fee the museum will, subject to final agreement, fully support the installation, interpretation and marketing of the work.

Timeframe: The successful artist will have a solid track record of producing and exhibiting their own work and will be expected to start working on the commission from November 2016.

Artwork will need to be completed by March 2017 and installed in May 2017. We will provide access to our collections, audiences and expertise as well as marketing and promotional support. Please note that applicants will be expected to produce work in their own studio / workspace.

How to apply: Please send your CV, together with an expression of interest including examples of your existing work and a proposal explaining how you might approach this commission to Julie Baxter at jbaxter@horniman.ac.uk.

Please note: Applications will only be accepted in pdf or word format and images of work via accessible weblinks (large files will not be accepted).

The deadline for submissions is 5pm Wednesday 5th October 2016
Interviews will take place week of 17th October 2016

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.

Who is Saci Perere?

Local performance group Whippersnappers go in search of the Brazilian folklore character of Saci Perere before their show at our Festival of Brasil.

‘Saci Perere is one of the most well-known mythical characters of Brazil. We have been busy speaking to our Brazilian friends and family and asking them what they know about Saci Perere.

Everyone seems to know what Saci looks like. They all say he wears a red cap, red shorts and has one leg. Some people say he lost his leg when he escaped from his slave master in the 18th century and others say he lost his leg when playing capoeira, but most people say Saci Perere has one leg and that is just how he is.

Legend has it that if you grab Saci’s red cap you are granted a wish, but the cap’s smell is so bad, you may never rid yourself of it.

Nobody has ever seen Saki Perere but they have all heard stories about how mischievous he is! Saci is a trickster and is blamed for all the things that go wrong in life – he burns the food and hides children’s toys.

We travelled to Ghana in May where we asked local tailors to stitch some of the backdrops for our performances and had a local puppeteer, Yevo a Togalese, create a Saci mask and puppet.

We were interested in the influence that enslaved African people had over the appearance of Saci Perere in Brazil. There are similarities between the African folklore character of Anancy (a trickster spider) and Saci Perere.

The performance

Our performance at the Horniman’s Festival of Brasil is an original theatre piece entitled “Cade O Saci Perere?” (Where is Saci Perere?)

It will draw inspiration from Brazilian handcraft. Brazilian handcraft is influenced by indigenous, African and Portuguese culture and enriched with the European and Asian migration’s touch, creating unique and colourful art.

Some of our decorations are based on the Brazilian ‘fuxico’ technique. Fuxico is where a piece of fabric which is cut into a circle, the edges are sewn and then pulled into the centre to create a round decoration. The name ‘fuxico’ is old slang for gossip as traditionally women would get together to sew these and gossip.

The show is also inspired by Brazilian ‘Folguedos’. Folguedos are traditional folk celebrations that feature live music, dance and theatrical performances some of which are performed on the streets around Brazil. Some Folguedos have religious roots and have over time been modified with new choreographies, costumes and masks.

Our performance will feature live music from Alba Cabral who will be playing Berimbau, pandeiro, surdo, tamborin, reco-reco (guiros), caxixis (shakers), the guitar, ukulele and kalimba.

Our show will be suitable for all the family and will have a sensory content to ensure it is accessible to children and adults with special needs. If you want to make sure you get a comfy seat bring your own cushion as we are expecting a lot of people. The word is spreading that Saci perere is coming to Forest Hill so if you live locally watch out he doesn’t turn your milk sour or put salt in your dough!'

See Whippersnappers’ performances of Cade O Saci Perere on Wednesday 24 August and on Sunday 4 September.

Animal in Focus: Poppy the alpaca

Every month, the Animal Keepers want to introduce you to a member of their extended family.

August's star attraction is Poppy, our fawn-coloured alpaca. We are celebrating a big anniversary at the Animal Walk this month as Poppy turns two years old.

Poppy was born on the 3 August 2014 and is special to the Keepers and the Horniman because she is the first, and only, animal to be born at the Animal Walk. 

Although this month sees her turn 2, she will always be a baby in the eyes of her mum, Peep, who kindly still allows Poppy to share her bedroom.

Poppy is fully mature but she still has a youthful sense of adventure, and can often be seen chasing pigeons and splashing about in her water bucket!

Alpacas were domesticated from vicuña - animals indigenous to South America and originating from The Andes in Peru, Chile and Bolivia. They are camelids and are related to guanacos, llamas and camels.

Alpacas have high quality fibre, which can be used to make textiles including jumpers, scarves and socks. Poppy and Peep are ‘Huacaya’ alpacas, which are known for their thick, woolly fibre. ‘Suri’ alpacas have much longer, dreadlock style fibre.

It may be hard to believe, but temperatures in The Andes are much lower than Britain’s summer, so to keep cool, our alpacas are shorn once a year and showered daily.

Alpacas kept in South America graze in herds, and will eat any scrub they can find. At the Horniman they are fed hay, grass, alpaca muesli mix, chaff, alfalfa and - Poppy’s absolute favourite - carrots (which she got an extra handful of on her birthday as a special treat!)

Alpacas can, but rarely do, spit, though they may spit at one another whilst fighting over food. Peep has also been known to try out her aim when the vet comes for a visit!

Come visit the Animal Walk and wish Poppy a very happy birthday!
The Animal Walk is open each day from 12.30pm to 4pm and entry is free.

The charming case of Alfred William Rowlett

Robin Strub, our Anthropology Volunteer, has been looking into the Horniman's collection of charms.

Have you ever wondered how the Horniman got its objects?

Who brought them here, and why? 

I’m here to help answer some of those questions! I volunteer in Anthropology’s collection of English charms and amulets, which has a lot of pieces from a man named Alfred William Rowlett. 

He came from the Cambridgeshire town of St Neots and, between 1904 and 1933, he sold the Horniman dozens of items that he had found as part of his town’s rural culture.

What do you think of when you look at the objects in the Horniman’s cases?  What do you imagine of the people who collected them?

Do you think of a Victorian, professorial man with a tweed jacket and pipe?

How about a Victorian dustman with a bin and broom? 

  • AW Rowlett by CF Tebbutt, From St. Neots The History of a Huntingdonshire Town, 1978
    From St. Neots The History of a Huntingdonshire Town, 1978

This picture is of Rowlett, who worked as a Dustman for the local government.  Bert Goodwin, a historian and local of St Neots, remembers Rowlett, and wrote about him for the St Neots Local History Magazine’s 2011-12 winter edition, including this picture of Rowlett and his dustbin making his rounds. 

When looking up Rowlett in the 1881 Census I found he was in work as a labourer by the time he was 13. He went on to become a businessman, as well as a Dustman, with an antiques shop, and worked with the Horniman in a professional capacity.  He even had his own official stationery that he used to write letters and invoices to the Horniman!  Here is how his letterhead looked:

  • Rowlett's, letterhead

We don’t know how Rowlett started working with the Horniman but as a local, he had specialist knowledge and access to his community. This was undoubtedly part of the benefit of the Horniman doing business with him. In a letter dated 6 May 1907, Rowlett noted that ‘my business is to find out and get all the necessary information I can get’ on objects destined for the Museum. 

His research is still important for the Horniman, as the things we know about the objects he sourced came via his connections. The information would otherwise have been lost without his detailed descriptors. 

Here is what he wrote about a ‘Spinning Jenny’ (object number 7.199) as an example, with a transcription beneath.

  • Spinning Jenny, Object description
    Object description

Spinning Jenny.

used at Easton Socon, Beds for Raffling oranges sweets & home made cakes at Holiday times & festivals with an original charm against the children in getting to high a number so as to benefit the owner of Spinning Jenny

used by Mrs Newton at home and village feasts in & Round Bedfordshire Cambs & Hunts

1856 half penny a spin

This is how the Spinning Jenny works:

You can see a piece of orange flint tied to the device - that’s the charm.

We know what that flint was for thanks to Rowlett, as well as precise details about how the Spinning Jenny is used. (I thought the owner would’ve been caught out by cheating, but my Curator figured out that if you keep the stone against your palm and hold out the Spinning Jenny, nobody can see that you have it in your hand!)

Rowlett would also make handwritten labels for artefacts that were entering the collection, and many of his labels are still stored with the objects. This is an example for number 9.41 in our collection, a wood pigeon’s foot that was used to ward off cramp.

  • Wood Pigeon, foot label
    foot label

A lot of the charms that Rowlett brought us are things from the natural world that people associated with various curative powers.

It may seem strange today, but the idea was that wood pigeons never get foot cramps. If I carry a wood pigeon’s foot, maybe that will protect me too. If you have ever heard of someone carrying a lucky rabbit’s foot, it’s not too far a leap from practices today.

Rowlett’s community of St Neots still remembers him as someone to go to for these kinds of all-natural remedies for health problems.

Local historian Rosa Young transcribed several adverts from a 1900 issue of a local paper for the St Neots Local History Magazine’s, which included an old advert that Rowlett had put in the paper for his own special patent medicine. It cured everything (naturally) but Rowlett’s neighbours did come to him seeking his medical expertise.

Bert Goodwin, the local historian who photographed Rowlett, recounts that when he was a child he had a wart on his knee cured by Rowlett,

He cut a small twig from a bush which he called ‘Joseph’s Thorn’,  which he shaped into a spatula, and then made his mark on the wart X.  “There,” he said, “it will be gone by the next full moon.”  Strangely enough, I forgot about it, but when I next looked it had gone.

Because of Rowlett’s work at St Neots, the local historical society put up a Blue Plaque for him.

  • Rowlett's blue plaque, Thanks to Eatons Community Association
    Thanks to Eatons Community Association

Like the wood pigeon’s foot above, many of the objects that Rowlett brought to the Horniman were considered to have health benefits. The charms I’m studying were used by real people who believed in them, and used them to solve a variety of different problems. Ironically, Rowlett – with his Joseph’s Thorn for curing warts – thought that some of the charms’ owners were ‘eccentric’!

I don’t know about you, but I have lucky charms. Millions of people all over the world believe in the power of objects and in 2018, the Horniman will open a new gallery where you will be able to find charms from all around the world, including those collected by Rowlett!

If you’d like to see what Rowlett brought to the Horniman, and 2018 is too long to wait, you can find all of Rowlett’s objects online

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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