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How Has The Horniman Aquarium Evolved?

“There is an advantage in finding together within the space of a few square yards, animals typical of a variety of habitats”

 The Aquarium Handbook, 1921, (Robson, 2013) p.52 

In 1901, Frederick John Horniman (1835-1906) presented his private collection of artefacts and natural specimens to the people of London. The collection was housed in a new museum building in Forest Hill and included a corridor serving as a ‘living extension’ to the Natural History galleries (Robson, 2013 52). The curators first used table displays of jars and dishes, before adding 47 slope-fronted tanks in 1907.

  • Horniman aquarium rebranded, The original Horniman aquarium, Horniman Museum and Gardens
    The original Horniman aquarium, Horniman Museum and Gardens

Perhaps the small aquarium corridor was seen as a modest replacement for the popular but now bankrupt Crystal Palace Aquarium less than two miles away. However, the appointment of zoologist and anthropologist Alfred Cort Haddon as Advisory Curator in 1902 marked a strong shift of focus away from entertainment in Forest Hill towards the educational (Shelton, 2001). Following a period of stagnation and some public criticism, conservation-led redevelopment and reorientation of the aquarium took place in 1991 and again in 2006 with habitat simulation playing a key feature.

  • Horniman aquarium rebranded, The Living Waters logo, 1991, Horniman Museum and Gardens− © Kevin Edge
    The Living Waters logo, 1991, Horniman Museum and Gardens