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Easter around the world

It’s Easter, filled with bunnies, egg-hunts and springtime treats, so we thought we would explore what Easter means to cultures around the world, through objects from the Horniman’s collections.

Polish Easter Eggs and decoration

In Poland, Easter is celebrated according to the Western Roman Catholic calendar. On the week before Easter, Palm Sunday (niedziela palmowa) takes place. Bunches of dried flowers and branches are brought to church representing palm leaves (said to have been scattered in front of Christ as he rode into Jerusalem) because palm trees are rare in Poland. The Holy week proceeds with spring-cleaning and families will decorate their homes in representations of Jesus’ tomb.

On the Saturday before Easter, the tradition of egg decorating, pisanki takes place, a tradition that’s more than a thousand years old. One technique to decorate the eggs is to apply wax, which would then be removed after dying. Another tradition is to make Easter baskets, these contain foods such as eggs, ham and cake. 

Easter Sunday consists of attending church for many to see the resurrection mass ceremony, before the meal and sharing of Easter chocolate. On the final festive day of Easter, known as Śmigus-Dyngus (Wet Monday), boys have traditionally thrown water over girls and hit them with willow branches. Girls traditionally returned the favour the following day.

  • Pisanki , Decorated egg, 'pisanki' , Horniman Museum and Gardens
    Decorated egg, 'pisanki' , Horniman Museum and Gardens

  • Dough lamb with flag, Dough lamb with flag, 2016.111, Horniman Museum and Gardens
    Dough lamb with flag, 2016.111, Horniman Museum and Gardens

  • Paper Easter chandelier, straw spider, Paper Easter chandelier, straw spider, 13.6.56/4, Horniman Museum and Gardens
    Paper Easter chandelier, straw spider, 13.6.56/4, Horniman Museum and Gardens

Paper Easter chandelier, 'straw spider', is a festival decoration made of straw and pieces of coloured paper. Decorations of this type were made during the Easter and Christmas periods and suspended under the ceiling beam. When spun by the wind, the decorations were a great attraction for children.

Easter in Russia

Did you know that Easter in Russia can fall in either April or May? This is because the dates are based on the Julian calendar, which differs from the Georgian calendar that most Western countries use.

All chores should be done the week before Easter, in the Holy Week. In Russia, Easter is called Pashka (Пасха) - one theory is that this derives from Greek for ‘I suffer’, signifying the transition Jesus made to from death to eternity.

As in Poland, Russia also has the tradition of decorating eggs, but this is done on ‘Clean Thursday’. Traditionally these are painted red using red onion skins and represent resurrection and new life. 

  • Lithograph of Easter customs, Lithograph of Easter customs, nn17390, Horniman Museum and Gardens
    Lithograph of Easter customs, nn17390, Horniman Museum and Gardens

The Easter witches of Sweden

In Sweden, children dress as påskgumma, the Easter witch or hag, and as with Halloween and trick-or-treat, the children knock on doors in exchange for sweets and drawings with Easter greetings on them.

In Swedish folklore, witches would travel to Blåkulla to dance with the devil on the Thursday before Easter, Maundy Thursday, and to prevent witches from starting journey people would hide broomsticks and set fires to scare them off.

  • Easter witch 31.10.60/3, Easter witch, 31.10.60/3, Horniman Museum and Gardens
    Easter witch, 31.10.60/3, Horniman Museum and Gardens

The Semana Santa and Pascua – Easter in Mexico

In Mexico, Easter is celebrated across two weeks: the Holy Week, Semana Santa, and Semana de Pascua, Easter week.

Processions and festivities take place on Semana Santa, and these activities change depending on the regions throughout Mexico.

It begins on Palm Sunday with the Blessing of the Palms, but really gets underway in earnest on Maundy Thursday, when there may be a re-enactment of the last supper, alongside services.

Church bells are usually silenced for the three days of Easter and people are called to church services by the use of a large wooden clapper also called a Matraca. Good Friday is marked in many towns and villages by the performance of a Passion Play, but it is Easter Saturday that most children look forward to.

On Easter Saturday large paper figures of Judas are stuffed with fireworks and paraded through the town, before exploding. The noise is added to by the spectators with Matracas. Easter Sunday is the highlight of the week when church attendance is high, and there are noisy celebrations in front of the church.

Semana de Pascua begins in the second week of Easter. This week has a light tone and celebrates the beginnings of Spring. Many Mexican families travel to the coast to pay tribute and enjoy the festivities.

  • Painted tin toy bird, matraca, Painted tin toy bird, known as a matraca, HC.1999.1386, Horniman Museum and Gardens
    Painted tin toy bird, known as a matraca, HC.1999.1386, Horniman Museum and Gardens

This painted tin toy bird, known as a matraca, or Easter rattle, painted black and pink with fake fur neck. Makes noise when rotated. Matracas are part of Easter Sunday celebrations in Mexico when paper figures of Judas are burnt, accompanied by fireworks and the noisy whirring of the matracas.

Australia and the Easter bilby

In Australia, Easter has the same traditions as many Western countries like hot cross buns and the extravagant roast dinner but did you know that the Easter bunny is represented by the Easter Bilby?

The Bilby (Macrotis lagotis), a small rodent-type animal, is used by many to raise awareness for the endangered animal.

Rabbits are seen as unlucky as they devastated the crops for farmers and are not indigenous to Australia.

  • Bilby , Bilby, Sadaka
    Bilby, Sadaka

Why not come and celebrate Easter at the Horniman? There are lots of events and activities happening throughout spring.

Join us in the Horniman fun for the Easter Fair on Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 April and identify the morning songs of birds in Dawn Chorus Walk on Saturday 4 May.

Horniman and Homecoming

The Horniman is excited to be involved in the Homecoming festival this year. The festival takes place from 19-21 April in Lagos and London.

Homecoming is a great celebration of Lagos art and culture. This resonates with our work at the Horniman, our commitment to music, visual art and performance, and how artists offer new perspectives on our collections.

The Horniman collections are from all over the world, while our exhibitions, displays and events bring artists from different backgrounds to show their work in our galleries and Gardens.

Homecoming gives us the chance to share some of the ideas we are working on with artists and colleagues in Lagos, and this is great timing because we have a number of projects in development.

Grace Ladoja MBE, Homecoming’s founder, says:

Homecoming's purpose is to ignite a celebration of cultural heritage and creative exchange, through the lens of music, fashion, sport and art.

In the Horniman, we're delighted to have the support of one of the UK's most culturally significant institutions for this year's edition. Their collection - one of the most expansive in the world - is steeped in Nigerian heritage and the Museum is already doing some wonderful work with artists and creatives in Nigeria, particularly in the run up to the country's 60th year of independence in 2020.

I'm confident this collaboration with the Horniman will help bring new audiences to the Horniman, while creating heightened visibility for Nigerian creatives under an international lens.

We’d love to hear more about the projects that are happening in Lagos, find ways to connect to them and share our ideas with you.

So what are we doing here in London?

Jide Odukoyo, Turn it Up

Jide Odukoya is a Nigerian photographer, whose first photographic pursuits were on the streets of Nigeria, including cities such as Lagos, Ogun, Ibadan, Ekiti, Benue, Oyo, Calabar, Enugu, Abuja and Port Harcourt. Now he majors in both long and short-term documentary photography projects focused on lifestyle, socio-economic issues, health and gender equality issues in Nigeria and beyond.

  • An image from Turn It Up by Jide Odukoya, An image from Turn It Up, Jide Odukoya
    An image from Turn It Up, Jide Odukoya

We were interested in Odukoya’s approach at the Horniman, and commissioned a series of photographs and film footage documenting the busy street markets on Lagos Island for the new World Gallery back in 2016.

Odukoya will be showing his recent series, Turn it Up, on the Balcony Gallery above the World Gallery. 'Turn it Up' is Lagosian vernacular for lavish fun. Odukoya shows Nigeria abuzz through public displays of cosmopolitan affluence and indulgence, celebrating Nigerian weddings and parties as some of the world's most opulent and outrageous ceremonies.

Through his work, Odukoya also wishes to evoke the paradox of such opulence, highlighting how momentary overindulgence is an important part of Nigerian cultural identity because the wealth that supports it is so fragile. See this display from June 2019.

Music in South London

The Horniman has one of the biggest collections of musical instruments in the world. The objects within come from all over the world, from 4,000 year old Egyptian hand clappers, to one of the first dance band drum kits in London and many instruments from Nigeria.

Our home in the heart of South London, puts us in the midst of a thriving and dynamic music scene, including Jazz, Grime and Afrobeat. Over the next two years we will be working with a range of musicians from the area, giving them a chance to work with our music collections and develop new work.

  • 1930s Drum Kit, 1930s Drum Kit
    1930s Drum Kit

This project, which is the first of its kind, will result in a major exhibition and music festival in autumn 2020.

Textiles and Independence

In October 2020, Nigeria will celebrate its 60th anniversary of Independence. We will be marking this at the Horniman with a new display in the World Gallery focusing on textiles, objects, images, sounds and memories from Nigeria in 1960.

We have a significant collection of mid-century indigo-dyed Adire cloth, printed wax cloths and woven Aso’Oke and Ekwete from the south and east, as well as thicker woven cloths from Kano in the North.

  • A close up of Nigerian textiles, A close up of Nigerian textiles - 1968.434
    A close up of Nigerian textiles - 1968.434

These textiles speak to a moment of artistic production and cultural reflection that surrounded Nigeria’s independence. They also reflect how this moment was one of migration and movement, with these textiles following their owners, as both Nigerian and British citizens resettled in the UK.

We will also be working with Nigerian/British artist Alafuro Sikoki-Coleman, weaving her own personal collection of objects and family memories from Nigeria in 1960, and creating new objects reflecting on the legacies of this moment in the present.

We hope to invite other people living in both Nigeria and Britain, to share their stories and photographs from and around the time of Nigerian independence, and to discuss how independence is remembered and reflected on today.

We’re interested in hearing what else is going on in London and Lagos, as part of this cultural exchange. What are your plans and how can we work together?

About the Art: James Morgan

Award-winning director and photographer James Morgan set out to capture the lives of the Bajau Laut, the world’s last true marine nomads. These Malay peoples have lived at sea for centuries, plying a tract of ocean between the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia.

We spoke to James about his documentation on the lives of Bajau Laut and his current exhibition at the Horniman, Sea Nomads.

  • Portrait of James Morgan, Portrait of James Morgan, James Morgan
    Portrait of James Morgan, James Morgan

What drew you to the Bajau Laut people?

I first heard about the Bajau in relation to the 2004 Tsunami. There was a story I heard about the Moken, another ocean-based people, having an intimate knowledge of the sea and being able to predict the Tsunami and escape to deeper water.

I’m not sure how much truth there actually is to the story, but it got me interested in marine nomads and cultures with intimate links to the ocean.

How long did you spend with them to capture this series?

  • _DSC5408, _DSC5408, For the children that are born in Torosiaje, it may be several years before they set foot on dry land. The stilt village has a junior school but older children commute to the mainland. Sulawesi, Indonesia. , James Morgan
    _DSC5408, For the children that are born in Torosiaje, it may be several years before they set foot on dry land. The stilt village has a junior school but older children commute to the mainland. Sulawesi, Indonesia. , James Morgan

These images were taken over the course of numerous trips over a five-year period. I’ve visited different communities, all around Sulawesi in Indonesia, staying usually for a couple of weeks at a time.

Did you have any particular shots in mind when planning this series, or things you needed to prepare?

I didn’t plan the images, although I had a sense of the kind of story I wanted to tell – although it changed as it developed. Mostly it moved away from a romanticised notion of life at sea to a more complex portrait of a community intricately involved in destroying the environment on which they depend.

There wasn’t a huge amount of preparation, but I did learn to freedive in order to create the underwater images without needing scuba apparatus. I also learnt to speak passable Indonesian in order to work directly without a translator.

Did you use any particular equipment or software when capturing the Sea Nomad images?

These images are just from a simple DSLR in an underwater housing. Actually, a surf housing as I find them lighter and quicker to use than dive housings.

What are the difficulties or joys of photography that you face in a series like this?

Shooting a mostly uncommissioned series like this is a real joy. It frees you up to follow your instincts and interests. The challenge, of course, is that the funding has to be patched together from various grants and sponsors, so there’s quite a bit of non-photography work involved!

What would you like people to think about when they see your work?

  • _DSC8458, _DSC8458, Ibu Ani looks on as her son, Ramdan, forages the reef for clams. Since Ani's husband died of the bends whilst compressor diving, she has relied on her son to support her during the months they spend at sea together., James Morgan
    _DSC8458, Ibu Ani looks on as her son, Ramdan, forages the reef for clams. Since Ani's husband died of the bends whilst compressor diving, she has relied on her son to support her during the months they spend at sea together., James Morgan

I think the main aim of the series is just to show an unusual way of life. Particularly one that’s very connected to the rhythms of the ocean. I’m very interested in the way we create our worlds, drawing from our experiences to build up a narrative of what life is and where its boundaries lie. I hope that images like these encourage people to reimagine the world they live in.     

What made you first want to become a photographer and filmmaker?

Originally, I just wanted to travel and see new things, and telling stories was a way for me to pay my way. But the interest in travel quickly dropped away and it became much more about trying to share the internal landscapes of the people I met.

How did you get started?

I got started by selling simple travel photographs of Iceland whilst I was studying at university there.

What would you advise someone wanting to start taking photos of their own or other communities?

To interrogate why you want to do it.  

What projects are you working on now or have coming up?

I’m currently working on a feature film about a near-future expedition in the Arctic. 

Sea Nomads is currently on display in the Balcony Gallery until 23 June.


A new breath of life for our Wildlife Pond

Shayna Soong, Schools Learning Officer discusses the recent Wildlife Pond renovation and upcoming family activities and school sessions on the Nature Trail. 

Nestled at the bottom of the Horniman Gardens lies a wonderful habitat corridor known as the Nature Trail. The site of a former railway, this trail is a tranquil oasis for wildlife and visitors alike.

At the end of the trail lays a wildlife pond and log meadow – both fantastic habitats in their own right, and a great setting for school and family outdoor learning sessions.

Unfortunately, the pond had rather suffered in recent times – the dipping platform was decaying, the water had filled up with tree leaves and duckweed, and the whole area was overgrown and gloomy.
  • Platform Nature Trail, Before: the old platform. slippery, sagging and too small, Wesley Shaw
    Before: the old platform. slippery, sagging and too small, Wesley Shaw
  • Duckweed and pond, Pond covered in duck weed and rotting platform timbers, Wesley Shaw
    Pond covered in duck weed and rotting platform timbers, Wesley Shaw

Gardens Team to the rescue!

Kevin and Daniel of the Gardens team set to work early this year, digging out the decaying old platform, clearing vegetation and excavating a new route to the log meadow.

The team built a new, extended platform with non-slip strips, a seating/workspace at the back and removable barriers at the front. A fabulous walkway was also created, with steps up to a new gate providing direct access to the log meadow.

The duckweed has been cleared and native marginal and submerged pond plants have been established. The tree canopy has also been reduced to allow more light into the pond. These measures will help to oxygenate the pond which, in turn, will encourage more aquatic wildlife.
  • new steps Nature Trail , After: new steps and gate through to log meadow− © Wesley Shaw
    After: new steps and gate through to log meadow
  • Foundations of platform - Nature Trail , Foundations for the new platform, Wesley Shaw
    Foundations for the new platform, Wesley Shaw
  • Kevin sawing decking for the new platform, Kevin sawing decking for the new platform, Wesley Shaw
    Kevin sawing decking for the new platform, Wesley Shaw
  • Kevin and Daniel hard at work, Kevin and Daniel hard at work, Wesley Shaw
    Kevin and Daniel hard at work, Wesley Shaw
  • The finished platform, The finished platform, Wesley Shaw
    The finished platform, Wesley Shaw
  • Pond cleared of duckweed, Pond cleared of duckweed, Wesley Shaw
    Pond cleared of duckweed, Wesley Shaw
There are plenty of newts living in the pond, the star of any pond dipping session, along with aquatic invertebrates such as dragonfly nymphs and water boatmen.

The improvements to the pond and surrounding area will make a huge difference to the experience of families and school groups taking part in learning sessions on the Nature Trail.

The Learning Team would like to extend a huge “thank you” to the Gardens Team, in particular, Kevin and Daniel, for their time and hard work.

Learning outdoors

  • Pond dipping , Pond dipping session, Megan Taylor
    Pond dipping session, Megan Taylor
For schools, the Nature Trail is a fantastic place to bring your Science topic to life. During guided learning sessions, pupils can directly experience native British habitats and learn a range of fieldwork skills under expert guidance, and all in a safe, managed environment.
For more information about Schools Learning Sessions on the Nature Trail, see Habitat Explorers for KS1 or Go Outside: Pond and Meadow for KS2 & 3.
Families can also experience the wonders of the Nature Trail during supervised pond dipping sessions during the school holidays and guided Welly Walk events.
Upcoming events:
Pond DippingTuesdays 9 and 16 April

The Horniman’s First Female Curators

Who were the women who blazed a trail at the Horniman in our Curatorial teams? We're taking a look back to find out more about who these women were.

Of course, there are other female firsts at the Horniman we would love to know – who was the first women who worked here?

Unfortunately, historic records relating to other roles are not as well kept as those pertaining to curatorial staff. As our Archivist, Carly Randall, points out, “published staff information focused on curators and not the behind the scenes roles that women would have, historically, had easier access to (e.g. running the shop and tea room, cleaners, educators, casual workers and volunteers etc).”

Do you have any stories about members of your family who worked in the Horniman during our earlier years? Please get in touch with us via web@horniman.ac.uk.

Jean Jenkins: Music

Out of the three women we feature, the one we know the most about is Jean Jenkins, who played a key role in the UK's knowledge of world music. She helped to provide a documentary record of musical traditions that have disappeared or changed beyond recognition during her career.

  • Jean Jenkins, Jean Jenkins, Tomxcoady CC BY 3.0 via Wikicommons
    Jean Jenkins, Tomxcoady CC BY 3.0 via Wikicommons

Jean was born in the Bronx in New York in 1922 into a Jewish family, and had an early interest in folk music. She was a union organiser and civil rights activist, and was part of the folk scene in New York before moving to Missouri, where she studied anthropology and musicology in the 1940s, working for a time in the Ozarks region.

Her letters reveal she was assaulted in Akansas in the 1940s, and felt harassed by the Ku Klux Klan according to Henrietta Lidchi, Keeper of World Cultures, at National Museums of Scotland. Her decision to emigrate to the UK in 1949 with her first husband, may have been due in part to this harassment and the atmosphere of the McCarthy era of purges; Jean was on the wanted list because of her campaigning work for black rights in trade unions.

In London, she embarked on a PHD at the University of London, SOAS and in 1954, Jean found a role at the Horniman as a temporary cataloguer, before becoming an Assistant Curator in 1956. In 1960, she became the Horniman’s first Keeper of Musical Instruments.

During her curatorial role, Jean travelled extensively throughout Southern Europe, Asia and Africa. She was interested in not just the instruments, but the musicians, music played and the context of the environment they were played in. Among many other places, she visited Uganda (1966 and 68), Malaysia (1972), Indonesia (1973) Afghanistan (1974) Algeria and Morocco, and Turkey and Syria (1975).

When I first went out to central Asia, I was in fact looking for the origins of a number of Indian instruments. I found some of them of course but that wasn’t at all what interested me about the trip. I went out there and heard a lot of music that I had not heard anything like at all before, and it was my first field trip, and from then on, I heard music which connected up with central Asia. Every single time I have taken a field trip I have heard something which connected up in some way or another. Jean Jenkins

During these field trips and excursions (some funded out of her own pocket) she collected hundreds of sound recordings, over 1,000 slides and photographs, and also kept regular diaries, which are held at National Museums of Scotland.

In addition, she collected a vast range of musical instruments, many of which are in our collections.

In the early 1970s, as part of the World of Islam Festival, she was commissioned by the Festival Trust to acquire a large collection of musical instruments for an exhibition at the Horniman.

Jean travelled to most of the countries in the world where Islam was or is practiced, as the state religion or which had come under its influence in the past, from Southern Italy to China. She curated the exhibition ‘Music and Musical Instruments for the World of Islam’ which ran from 3 April – 6 October 1976, introducing the collections to a much wider audience.

In 1978, Jean left the Horniman and worked independently in Edinburgh, France and Germany, curating exhibitions like Man and Music in Scotland in 1983.

She died in 1990.

Valerie Vowles: Anthropology

Valerie was the first female curator for our anthropology collections, then known as Ethographic collections.

We could find very little material about Valerie before her time in Uganda in the 1950s; nothing about her upbringing or early interests and career.

She wrote in the Museum Ethnographers Group journal (October 1981) that when she arrived in Uganda in 1951, a new museum was being built. She collected for the new Uganda Museum, travelling, “for the most part in the northern half of the country, but as time went on I was invited to other areas where people wished to ensure that their way of life was adequately represented in the museum.”

Merrick Posnansky, Curator of the Uganda Museum, wrote,

We were fortunate to have Valerie Vowles, probably the best ethnographer in Africa, maintain the collections immaculately. The storerooms had shelves on rails to maximize space, an innovation only introduced to the United States 20 years later. She had developed a system for periodic inspection of every item, refreshing accession numbers as necessary and sealing artefacts in plastic bags to keep out insects and dust.

Half way through the initial exhibition scheduled following the new museum opening, Valerie suffered a period of doubt about their “audience appeal.” She felt that there was a risk of boring the audience with objects that they used every day in their own homes.

In an effort to understand the interests of young adults she spent a year ‘on and off’ talking to students and professionals to make recommendations back to the museum about content, but the advent of a promotional campaign from Uganda’s new TV service meant that audience interest was no longer a problem and the museum became very popular.

Valerie was an Assistant Curator at the Horniman from 1968 until 1975, before becoming Keeper of Ethography from 1976 until 1982.

In the early 1970s, Valerie had established a solid relationship with Doreen Ntete who was an assistant curator of the recently established National Museum and Art Gallery of Botswana (NMAGB). They started a joint collecting initiative, collaborating on fieldwork to collect very well documented San material which was distributed between the two museums.

Botswana was recently independent (1966) and Ntete was keen that the national museum held a global collection, similar to other world-focused museums, rather than focusing only on southern African material. Ntete was particularly keen on material that spoke to their existing collections. An exchange was agreed between the Horniman and the NMAGB whereby a selection of Australian and Pacific stone tools were sent to Botswana in exchange for further San material.

It was under Valerie’s (and later Keith Nicklin’s) keeperships that the Horniman’s systematic collection of African materials began, after a focus on African visual culture in the past. It was this approach which led to the collections of the everyday material culture of specific African peoples, which is very much in evidence in the World Gallery today.

  • Wooden lidded bowl, A Wooden lidded bowl from Mozambique
    A Wooden lidded bowl from Mozambique

Valerie also played a key role in the creation of the Museum Ethnographers Group (MEG). Peter Gathercole wrote in 1997, during a reflection of the creation of the group, that by the early 1970s, “many of us working in museum ethnography felt that the subject needed a more self-conscious position in both anthropology and museology in this country and museum ethnographers a better defined role.”

During a meeting in Liverpool in 1974, Valerie and Charles Hunt (from Merseyside County Museum) both “expressed mutual frustration with the existing ethnographic scene.” Following this, Valerie organised a meeting at the Horniman on 22 May 1974 with Hunt as the first speaker. The title of the event was ‘Ethnography in museums: a reassessment,’ and according to Gathercole, “the response was excellent” with “most of the 40 people who had indicated that they would come did so (some 15 are still MEG members).”

Valerie continued in her involvement with MEG in the 1970s, acting as Secretary and Treasurer of the Group in 1976.

After Valerie left the Horniman in 1982, the trail gets difficult to follow again, although we believe she was living in the UK in the early 2000s.

Does anyone know any more about Valerie’s life and career? Get in touch (web@horniman.ac.uk) and we’ll update the blog.

Dr Penny Wheatcroft: Natural History

The final curator we found was Dr Penny Wheatcroft, who was the first female Keeper of Natural History at the Horniman in the early 1980s.

Penny was born in September 1945 and we know that she worked at the Herbert Museum and Art Gallery in Coventry from 1976 until 1980. She joined the Horniman as Keeper in 1980 and was here until 1985.

According to research carried out by the University of the Third Age in 2011, Penny spent a great deal of her time with the day to day running of the museum, along with live animal displays of fish, reptiles and bees. She instigated a new catalogue system for the 40-50k specimens which hadn’t been documented since the 1930s, as well as a project to oversee renovation in the present Natural History gallery.

One of the key acquisitions she oversaw was the Hart bird collection, purchased from Stowe School in 1983. These 245 cases of stuffed birds, often in striking dioramas, were created by Edward Hart (other parts of this collection went to Leicester Museum Service and Hampshire County Council Museums Service).

  • Robins from the Hart Bird Collection, Taxidermy case of adult female and adult male European Robin, part of the Hart bid collection.
    Taxidermy case of adult female and adult male European Robin, part of the Hart bid collection.

Within the sector, Penny was heavily involved with the Biology Curators Group (BCG), which merged with the Natural Sciences Conservation Group (NSCG) in 2003 to form the Natural Sciences Collection Association (NatSCA). She became Secretary of the BCG in 1983.

During her time at the Horniman, our natural history collections unfortunately suffered a series of thefts, vandalism or attempted thefts over what must have been a very stressful month. In a letter to the BCG, Penny wrote,

Recently the Natural History Department at the Horniman Museum gained a new and enthusiastic type of visitor. Unfortunately these keen would-be naturalists were inclined to visit outside the normal opening hours, possibly carrying large sacks labelled SWAG.

She sought help from the group on the subjects of valuation, as she was struggling to convince the “catford cops” of the value that these objects (eggs and taxidermy fish), which could be illegally sold.

Penny believed that these incidents were originated by the same person or group, and warned, “if an anaemic and somewhat scarred individual offers you a cheap carp or some cracked eggs - be warned, it could be our visitor.”

She moved on to the Natural History Museum as an Exhibition Developer in 1985, then known as the British Museum (Natural History), who were not as keen on Penny’s involvement with the BCG (as noted in the groups’ newsletter in 1987). She stepped down formally from the group in 1986.

Penny was involved in the trade union at the museum, and campaigned to “maintain free enquiry and research facilities” at the museum, as well as campaigning against entry charges. According to another newsletter from the BCG, she was “fighting that policy tooth and nail.”

From 1989, she moved within the nearly renamed Natural History Museum to become Information Officer in the Visitor Resources Section, and was the Branch Chair of the of the Institution of Professionals, Managers and Specialists. Comments from Penny appear in The Times twice in 1990, emphasising her role within the union.

First, a letter to the Editor about an article focused on changes being implemented by a new Director at the museum. She wrote,

Your leader of April 27 falls into the classic “king's new clothes” trap, assuming that any glossily presented change is necessarily for the good. Its insidious sub-text is that the new Director of the Natural History Museum, Dr Chalmers, is valiantly battling against a fusty horde of ‘curators of the old school’. Nothing could be further from the truth. The museum's importance as an international centre of excellence in taxonomy and mineralogy continues in the face of inadequate Government funding and managerial hostility.

The very next day, she was quoted in an article about consulting with the union before committing to job cuts, claiming a victory ahead of planned strike action.

After this, the trail becomes cold, although we believe she died in 2010.

Does anyone have any more information about Penny and her career? Get in touch (web@horniman.ac.uk) and we’ll update the blog.

With thanks to Carly Randall, Archivist, and Johanna Zetterstrom-Sharp, Deputy-Keeper of Anthropology.

Horniman’s 5 Women Artists

When people have been asked to name five female artists (beyond perhaps Frida Kahlo) they struggle. Magnificent and talented as they are, there’s a wealth of female artists out there. At the Horniman, we have exhibited works by Lynette Nampijimpa Granites Nelson, Buffy Cordero-Suina and Olive Blackham to name a few.

So this year we have decided to take part in the challenge National Museum of Women in the Arts set again, and highlight female artists. We’re even giving you a sneak peek about who will be exhibiting later this year towards the end of this post.

Shauna Richardson

  • Photo of Shauna Richardson, Shauna Richardson
    , Shauna Richardson

Shauna Richardson developed a sewing technique called Crotchetdermy®. Crotchetdermy® creates a skin like visual by using the interlocking of looped stitches formed with a single thread and hooked needle. Her exhibition EVOLUTION of The Artist and The Exhibited Works compliments the taxidermy and narrative of evolution from the Natural History Gallery.

“Crochetdermy® is a combination of all sorts of things. I guess it’s a mash-up of me and my life. There are childhood pastimes such as museum visits and making things, and the adult interest in art theory, particularly in what constitutes art and perhaps more interestingly, what does not. Constant throughout there is rebellion, humour and pure devilment” – Shauna Richardson.

  • Bear Crochetdermy®, Bear Crochetdermy sculpture, Shauna Richardson
    Bear Crochetdermy sculpture, Shauna Richardson

Serena Korda

  • Serena Korda, Serena Korda , Chris Egon Searle
    Serena Korda , Chris Egon Searle

Have you seen or smelt the scented ceramics in our new arts space, The Studio?

English artist Serena Korda created them as part of her work with The Collective, a group of 10 people from the local community. Korda creates large-scale ensemble performances, soundscapes and sculptures that reflect communion and tradition and aspects of our lives.

This element feeds into The Lore of The Land exhibition, which asks us to think about our relationship to our natural environment. The exhibition features 100 objects from our anthropology collection, scented sculptures and a soundscape influenced by the chemical process that arises in trees and plants. You can visit The Lore of the Land until 2 June 2019.

  • The Lore of The Land , The Lore of The Land
    The Lore of The Land

Alafuro Sikoki-Coleman

  • Woyingi design piece , Woyingi design piece by Alafuro Sikoki-Coleman, Studio Sikoki , Jatin Garg
    Woyingi design piece by Alafuro Sikoki-Coleman, Studio Sikoki , Jatin Garg

Alafuro Sikoki-Coleman is an artist and industrial designer whose work explores the dynamics between the object, user, and the environment. 

Her piece in the World Gallery represents Woyingi. In Ljaw law, Woyingi is the goddess of all creation. Although many Ljaw people are now Christian, people still refer to God as Woyongi or Nana Owei.

Her beautiful pieces can be seen in the African encounter in the World Gallery.

Vuya Raratabu

In Fiji, Barkcloth, called tapa or masi, is a sacred material made from beaten mulberry bark. Traditionally, barkcloth is central to celebrations and milestones in family life. 

In the World Gallery, two examples of this can be seen. The dresses designed by Vuya Raratabu, were made to celebrate the 1st and 21st birthday of Shelley Marie Kaurasi. Traditionally these dresses only come in variants of brown and black, made with natural materials such as clay, dye and soot, which are representative of the land.

Across Polynesia, people share a similar understanding of mana as power, effectiveness and prestige of divine origin. In Fiji, mana is often associated with chiefs and healers. Mana also exists within objects. The chiefly regalia and barkcloth material you can see here reveal different ideas and experiences of mana.

  • 2017.85, Item 2017.85, dress by Vuya Raratabu
    Item 2017.85, dress by Vuya Raratabu

  •  2017.84, Item 2017.84, dress by Vuya Raratabu
    Item 2017.84, dress by Vuya Raratabu

Claire Morgan

  • Claire Morgan, Claire Morgan, David Holbrook
    Claire Morgan, David Holbrook

Claire Morgan is a UK artist, with a deep interest in humans and animals. Much of her work features taxidermy, creating tangible elements to something that would be lost.

“I am interested in humans as animals. What we have been, what we are, and what we could be or might be, as our way of living changes.” Claire Morgan

Morgan is in the process of creating special artworks that will connect to the Natural History Gallery. Watch this space for more news on Claire, as her pieces will be coming later next year.

Below are some of her preparatory sketches.

  • As I Live and Breathe (300 dpi-3547), As I Live and Breathe
37 x 28.2cm (h x w)
Pencil and watercolour on paper

Photo: Claire Morgan Studio, Claire Morgan

Courtesy Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne, Paris, St. Moritz
    As I Live and Breathe 2019 37 x 28.2cm (h x w) Pencil and watercolour on paper Photo: Claire Morgan Studio, Claire Morgan Courtesy Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne, Paris, St. Moritz

  • By the Skin of the Teeth (c) Claire Morgan, By the Skin of the Teeth 
67 x 101.8cm (h x w)
Pencil, watercolour, graphite, pastel on paper

Photo: Claire Morgan Studio

Claire Morgan

Courtesy Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne, Paris, St. Moritz
    By the Skin of the Teeth 2019 67 x 101.8cm (h x w) Pencil, watercolour, graphite, pastel on paper Photo: Claire Morgan Studio Claire Morgan Courtesy Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne, Paris, St. Moritz


And one more…

  • Katie Schwab, Katie Schwab, Sarah Packer
    Katie Schwab, Sarah Packer

We also recently announced a new partnership with Artist Katie Schwab who will co-produce a brand new artwork with a new Collective accompanied with a programme of events.

Share your stories of women artists using the hashtag #5WomenArtists on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Stories of Woyingi

Rachael Minott, Curator of Anthropology (Social Practice) studies the stories surrounding Woyingi by Alafuro Sikoki-Coleman.

  • Woyingi design piece by Alafuro Sikoki-Coleman, Woyingi design piece by Alafuro Sikoki-Coleman, Jatin Garg
    Woyingi design piece by Alafuro Sikoki-Coleman, Jatin Garg

In the World Gallery, there is a striking artistic representation of the Ijaw deity Woyingi by Alafuro Sikoki-Coleman. 

Woyingi (Nana Owei) defined as Our mother, she who owns us, is imagined with black eggs which refer to muto the divine womb. The Ijaw creation myth places the origin of humanity at the feet of a supreme being sometimes called Woyingi/ Woyengi or Wonyinghi sometimes Temearau (she who creates).
The womb and its blackness are significant as it celebrates the origin of humanity from a cosmic womb that symbolically celebrates black womanhood. This symbolic celebration has real social, political and economic significance for the Ijaw women. A comparative study in 2014 for the Africa Journal of Social Science* found a correlation in the feminization of God Ijaw women occupying higher socio-cultural, political and economic roles compared to their Ibo, Hausa and Yoruba counterparts in Nigeria.
This study shows the importance of the stories we tell ourselves and revere and how these stories have implications for all other aspects of life. It is easy to see how Woyingi can be a symbol for empowerment, she is described as a beautiful and powerful; she is good and wise and she listens.
  • Woyingi design piece by Alafuro Sikoki-Coleman, Woyingi design piece by Alafuro Sikoki-Coleman, Jatin Garg
    Woyingi design piece by Alafuro Sikoki-Coleman, Jatin Garg
The creation myth, in which she centres, sees her arrive on earth by a thunderbolt. Finding it empty she makes humans from the earth beneath a scarred tree with her feet resting on a creation stone. Before she is finished, she breathes lives into each one and asks them who they would like to be. What should their gender be, how long should they live, by what means should they die and what would they like to achieve in this life? She grants each human their wish. However the choices they make, for power or material things determine which river she leads them down, the clear still river, or the muddy and turbulent river. They live the lives they chose and return to Woyingi only in death.

*Uzobo, Endurance & Ogbanga, Mina & Jack, Jackson. (2014). THE IMPLICATIONS OF THE FEMINIZATION OF GOD AMONG THE IJAW PEOPLE OF NIGERIA. African Journal of Social Sciences. 4. 99-108. 


LGBTQ+ Stories and Themes of Love

Rachael Minott, Curator of Anthropology (Social Practice), has been looking at the different expressions of love in the World Gallery, as part of LGBT History Month.

As February draws to a close, we wanted to participate in LGBT History Month, using the ethos of the World Gallery to celebrate cultural differences. Ultimately, we are looking for common humanity, reflecting on the themes of the Gallery used to show human connections.

  • A heart charm from the World Gallery, A heart charm from the World Gallery
    A heart charm from the World Gallery

We want to mediate on stories that reflect on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender narratives of love around the world. Love between families, friendship, love within communities, romantic love, and platonic love and, of course, self-love. We strive to be active participants in an inclusive world, of tolerance, celebration and love.

Tracing LGBT stories globally allows us to challenge heteronormativity, and binary gender roles, but it also asks us to reflect on violence and discrimination, legacies which are connected to imperial histories, and which mean that for some living their authentic lives is dangerous.

But by focusing on the themes that connect all of humanity we hope we can touch upon the breadth of emotion that we all experiences in living a full life. 

Raising Children

One of the core narratives in the World Gallery, and indeed a core themes for the Horniman in general, are stories about how we raise children in different contexts.

The theme of child rearing includes the way individual families raise children, but also how communities come together to care for children collectively. It includes education, emotional and physical support.

In the World Gallery, the introductary area greets visitors with objects that are sentimental. One such object is Salish infant carrier, from what is today Montana (North America), used by guardians to carry children.

  • Salish infant carrier, A Salish infant carrier. The Salish now celebrate those known as Two Spirit.
    A Salish infant carrier. The Salish now celebrate those known as Two Spirit.

This object was used for physically supporting young ones and is a typical object type found in many cultures. However, if we look at other aspects of how the Salish raise children, we can explore how those known as Two Spirit are raised, and in turn are often involved in raising children themselves.

Two Spirit

The people of the Flathead nation, to which the Salish belong, celebrate those known as Two Spirit. This term is understood across First Nations people of the Americas, and has a long histories of signifying the importance of individuals deemed to possess both male and female spirits.

Two Spirit people acted and continue to act, as mediators in disagreements, serving their elders, and supporting youth during puberty.

Today, Two Spirit is a term for First Nations people associated with being gender fluid, gender queer and gender non-conforming. It refers to pre-colonial understandings of gender that was normalised.

  • Two spirit pride trolley at San Francisco Pride, Two spirit pride trolley at San Francisco Pride, 2014, Sarah Stierch via wiki commons CC.BY.40
    Two spirit pride trolley at San Francisco Pride, 2014, Sarah Stierch via wiki commons CC.BY.40

While today it is celebrated, those who were Two Spirit and who lived through colonialism, were often forced into violent boarding school systems, where binary gender identities were assigned. As such, the resurgence of the term is a form of healing, and goes hand-in-hand with educational programs to challenge binary gender norms for children.

The Montana Two Spirit Society formed in 1996 through a joint effort by Pride Inc. (Montana’s LGBT advocacy organisation) and the Montana Gay Men’s Task Force, and runs an annual Two Spirit Gathering. The 2019 gathering will see the first Two Spirit Youth Gathering for those aged 10-25 years.

This approach aims to support First Nation’s LGBT+ youth as a community, through education and support: caring about physical and mental wellbeing while providing educational support and safe spaces to grow.

In the UK, people have come together to support LGBT youth, understanding that communities raise children alongside and sometime in lieu of immediate familial support. Charities like The Proud Trust, Mosaic youth and Albert Kennedy Trust  amongst others.

Celebrating life

Another core theme in the World Gallery is celebrating life. This is explored through looking at rites of passages, various masquerades and festivals.

Celebrating life is an essential activity to take note of when we (both as individuals and groups) survive and thrive. These include weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, independence days, parades and carnivals.

For the LGBTQ+ community globally, Pride has become one of the most recognised forms of celebration. It occurs in different cities on different days, and aims to be an inclusive safe space to come together, and stand together.

  • Gay Pride Johannesburg 2006, Gay Pride Johannesburg 2006, Diricia De Wet via wikicommons CC BY2.0
    Gay Pride Johannesburg 2006, Diricia De Wet via wikicommons CC BY2.0

An essential element of these celebration is the Pride flag and the parade through the city. Attendees often wear amazing outfits and make up, and there is food, drink and music. It is a moment of unity, celebrating shared elements of identity, and the freedom to express that identity publicly, loudly and safely: with pride.

This type of cultural expression is a common global activity, for various cultures to celebrate different elements of life together. These celebrations often have similar components: music, movement, special dress and/or make-up and a coming together to express elements of a shared identity, publicly and loudly.

As with Pride, these acts of celebrating life are not a-political, and are in response to, or defiance of, previous (and continuous) repression. The celebrations themselves are often policed and attract those who wish to spread hate, to appear and try to maintain repressive, violent actions.

Barriletes Gigantes

Celebrating life goes hand in hand with remembering the dead as a core element of the human experience. Acts of remembrance are not always acts of mourning, but another form of celebrating a life lived.

In Guatemala, in the Sacatepequez region, for All Saints day (1-2 November) the Barriletes Gigantes (Giant kite) festival is held. Bright colourful kites up to 36 meters are created and flown to act as a mediator for the spirits of the deceased loved ones.

  • Barriletes Gigantes in a graveyard, Barriletes Gigantes in a graveyard, Nimrod Zaphnath via Wikicommons CC BY 2.0
    Barriletes Gigantes in a graveyard, Nimrod Zaphnath via Wikicommons CC BY 2.0

The Giant Kite festival, is a tradition carried down from Mayan culture. The kites are made using bamboo, fabric and paper and have intricate designs which have been worked on for about a year, while the construction would be undertaken over 40 days. These designs are sometimes political, and call out corruption or loss of ancestral knowledge or land, and often call for respect and love.

Traditionally the details of the design were supposed to specifically communicate with the family ancestors to help them journey back to the land of the living without interruption from evil spirits.

Today the messages are less about communicating with the dead and are instead messages of peace, hope, and companionship for the living.

The kite entitled, ‘Amor, dolor y creación’ (‘Love, Pain and Creation’) hangs above the World Gallery and was made by the art collective Gorrión Chupaflor for the Festival in 2013. It depicts a Mayan origin story of humanity from the Quiché Maya Popol Vuh, and links to the galleries desire to celebrate life.

  • Our central kite from a Barriletes Gigantes , Our central kite from a Barriletes Gigantes
    Our central kite from a Barriletes Gigantes

Remembering the dead

When remembering the dead, museums are best able to reflect objects used for memorials, some of which are reflective of a tragic loss of life, such as the Japanese Ita-hi (memorial stone) in the World Gallery.

It is a stone carved with a depiction of a seated Nyoirin Kannon Cintamani cakra, a form of Avalokiteshvara – a being who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas.

This form became a principle icon of worship from the 10th century, and the bodhisattva's pose, in fact, indicates that he is resting in his personal paradise on Mt. Potalaka, while in his hand he holds the cintamani, which is a wish giving stone.

The inscription indicates that the figure was erected in memory of a girl who died, aged 5, on the date Houei5, September (September 1708). It gives her holy name also, 'Kourin-shinnyo'.

Countries around the world have erected memorials to members of the LGBTQ+ community who suffered persecution during under the Nazi regime, with a memorial in San Francisco, in the United States (1978), Amsterdam, in The Netherlands (1987),  Frankfurt and Berlin, in Germany (1994 and 2008 respectively), Sydney in Australia (2001), and Tel Aviv, Israel (2014).

The Transgender memorial garden in St Louis, USA (2015) was created for those who lost their lives to transphobic violence and to provide space where their lives can be celebrated. For those who lost their lived during the AIDS epidemic there is a public memorial in Indiana, USA (2000); while last year saw a fundraising campaign for the UK to have its first AIDS memorial, to mark the thousands of lives lost, and to provide those living with HIV or who had been affected by it, a space to remember and recover.

Telling stories

Monuments to those who have passed away, are essential to telling stories.

Remembering our common narratives helps us to understand the world we live in now and how communities evolve.

Memorials to those who have passed away remind us of the trials we have survived, and ask that history does not repeat itself. However, because of homophobic legislation schools and local authorities were banned from discussing and displaying narratives about same-sex relationships under Section 28.

  • Section 28 Rainbow Plaque, Section 28 Rainbow Plaque, Chemical Engineer via Wikicommons CC BY SA4.0
    Section 28 Rainbow Plaque, Chemical Engineer via Wikicommons CC BY SA4.0

The Local Government Act, known as Section 28, was implemented across England Scotland and Wales in 1988 (and repealed between 2000 and 2003), which expressly banned ‘intentionally promoting homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality.’

While this legislation was challenged, demonstrated against and denounced, it left a gap in the public sector of stories about LGBTQ+ lives during that period, something that the country is still recovering from.   

Telling diverse stories is one way that museums can be a leading figure in and inclusive world. LGBTQ+ stories in museums are underrepresented, and this needs to change.

Key to telling authentic LGBTQ+ stories will be working with those who identify as LGBTQ+ to explore the rich, complex narratives of life.

While the Horniman does not currently have enough touch points, or research to tell this story as well as we like, we hope to improve by actively working towards serving the LGBTQ+ community better, like our work with Rainbow Pilgrims during Crossing Borders, an LGBTQ+ refugee group, who have shared their stories with our audiences.

It shows us the importance and depth of platforming these narratives, and the role in telling these stories to make the world a more tolerant, accepting and inviting place.

  • Members of rainbow Pilgrims at Crossing Borders, Members of rainbow Pilgrims at Crossing Borders, Mary Humphrey
    Members of rainbow Pilgrims at Crossing Borders, Mary Humphrey

Lost Wonders of London

Our new exhibition Brick Wonders displays marvels of our world, we decided to take a look at the lost wonders of London.

1. Crystal Palace

Our first wonder is closely tied to South London. The Crystal Palace, designed by Sir Joseph Paxton was a beautiful glass structure held together through a network of iron rods. The building played host to The Great Exhibition, which opened on 1 May 1851 in Hyde Park and was moved to South London following the exhibition. The display hosted 14,000 exhibitors from around the world. The first of its kind, it opened Britain to an experience of travelling cultures. An estimated 6 million people were said to attend the exhibition, including Queen Victoria, Charles Darwin and Charles Dickens.

This beautiful hand-held fan depicts the crowds at Crystal Palace during the Great Exhibition, the reverse is decorated with figures and crests in Gold.

  • Fan, 99.223a, Fan, 99.223a, Horniman Museum and Gardens
    Fan, 99.223a, Horniman Museum and Gardens

  • Fan, 99.223a, Fan, 99.223a, Horniman Museum and Gardens
    Fan, 99.223a, Horniman Museum and Gardens

Illustrated London News Frontpiece with the title below, reading 'Interior of the Crystal Palace. Hyde Park 1851'. The print shows crowds viewing the exhibits, with a stand for Ceylon on the left, the upper galleries around, and the roof structure above.

  • Print, 2011.32, Print, 2011.32, Horniman Museum and Gardens
    Print, 2011.32, Horniman Museum and Gardens

This page from the Illustrated London News depicts an exterior view of the Crystal Palace with crowds in the front. Above, at the centre, are the figure of Britannia, with Queen Victoria on the left greeting two female figures in Asian dress on her right, flanked by figures in western dress on the left and in Asian dress on the right.

  • Print, 2011.33, Print, 2011.33, Horniman Museum and Gardens
    Print, 2011.33, Horniman Museum and Gardens

2. Euston Arch

  • Euston Arch, Euston Arch− © Tekniska museet
    Euston Arch

Our second wonder is an iconic symbol of the industrial revolution, the Euston Arch. It is said to be ‘first great monument of the railway age’ by railway enthusiasts.

The arch was built in 1838 at the same time as the opening of Euston Station, the capitals first inter-city terminal.

Demolished in the 1960’s when Euston station was rebuilt, some of its stones have been used to fill the Prescott Channel. There has been many articles discussing the aesthetics of the arch. Is this the marmite of architecture? Is it a piece that would look out of place nowadays in the city or do we need more structures like this that stand out, bold and strong?

  • Archway,4522.12, Archway,4522.12, Horniman Museum and Gardens
    Archway,4522.12, Horniman Museum and Gardens

  • Archway, 4522.12, Archway, 4522.12, Horniman Museum and Gardens
    Archway, 4522.12, Horniman Museum and Gardens

This is part of an Indian arch that you pass through in the World Gallery, made of teak. According to Sir Somers Vine who sold it to the Horniman, it took six men seven years to carve.

3. Amphitheatre under Guildhall

  • London's Roman Amphitheatre, London's Roman Amphitheatre, Philafrenzy
    London's Roman Amphitheatre, Philafrenzy

Rediscovered by Museum of London archaeologists in 1988, the Amphitheatre under Guildhall Yard is a landmark you can see today and London’s only Roman amphitheatre.

The wooden structure was built in 70AD and could play host to up to 6,000 people. Amphitheatres would have been used for public executions and gladiator shows or fights. The surviving remains include the stone entrance tunnel, east gate and arena walls.

This rod puppet shows a Roman Centurion.

  • Rod puppet nn18424, Rod puppet, nn18424, Horniman Museum and Gardens
    Rod puppet, nn18424, Horniman Museum and Gardens

4. Palace of Whitehall

  • Palace of Whitehall, Painting of the Palace of White Hall, Hendrik Danckerts
    Painting of the Palace of White Hall, Hendrik Danckerts

The Palace of Whitehall was home to English monarchs from 1530 to 1698. In 1698 a fire of destroyed the entire palace, leaving only the banqueting area intact. The palace was one of the largest in Europe with 1,500 rooms.

Originally the site was developed by the Archbishop of York. It was in the sixteenth century that the site was made into a great palace by Cardinal Wosley, which was taken over and expanded by Henry Vlll. Henry married two of his six wives at Whitehall Palace and also died there.

Whitehall was also where Charles l was executed and where William III and Mary II succeeded the throne in 1689-90.

  • Commemorative plate, 2434, Horniman Museum and Gardens
    , Horniman Museum and Gardens

5. Old London Bridge

  • Illustration of Old London Bridge, Illustration of Old London Bridge, Claude de Jongh
    Illustration of Old London Bridge, Claude de Jongh

Our final wonder is the Old London Bridge. Built between 1176 and 1209, the Old London Bridge stood as a place of commercial and residential occupancy for merchants and city dwellers.

Built by Peter, chaplain of St. Mary’s of Colechurch, the bridge was made up of 19 arches and 200 houses. The bridge had survived several catastrophes, but three years after its completion all the buildings were destroyed by a huge fire, where 3,000 people were killed.

In 1282, five of the arches fell due to the pressures of winter weather, and when the central pier was removed in 1762 the bridge became hard to maintain. The river would erode the arches which constantly needed protecting with stones. This led to the structure being redesigned further upstream by John Reggie.

You can see a replica of the Old London Bridge and the life of the towns’ people in our exhibition Brick Wonders until 19 October 2019.

  • Old London Bridge model, Model of Old London Bridge, Warren Elsemore
    Model of Old London Bridge, Warren Elsemore

Is there a building or landmark that you feel is a lost wonder in London? Do let us know by tagging us @HornimanMuseum on Twitter and Facebook.

How to be a green visitor

Recognised with a Green Tourism award and as a Green Flag Venue, we strive at the Horniman to be as environmentally friendly and energy efficient as possible.
We’ve put together a guide to our improvements and a few tips on how you can be a greener visitor too.

Arrive by public transport

The Horniman is well served by public transport. Forest Hill station is part of the London Overground with regular direct trains from North, East and South East London. Direct trains also run from London Bridge and Victoria.

You can also reach us easily by bus from Brixton, Lewisham, Streatham, Tottenham Court Road, Victoria Penge, Crystal Palace, Peckham, Catford, New Cross and Croydon.

Visit our How to Get Here page to plan your journey.

Water stations

  • Emma Nicholls at Water Fountain, #OneLess Campaign
    #OneLess Campaign

We’ve made it easy for our visitors to leave single-use plastics behind with our two water refill stations. We have a Victorian fountain located near the Bandstand and a modern refill point close to the main entrance. As part of the London Drinking Fountain Fund, it serves as one of 20 across the whole of London provided by #OneLess campaign and the Mayor of London. We also offer free water refills in the Café as part of the award-winning Refill campaign.

Less than 30% of people in the UK drink water from a reusable bottle and refilling a reusable bottle is an easy way of reducing pollution to our environment. If you haven’t already invested in a refillable water bottle, we have some available in the shop. The proceeds go towards helping run the Horniman and it will help save you money in the long run.


Have you spotted the recycling points around the Gardens?  They are situated near the Bandstand, if you’re having a picnic or using the eating spaces, you can leave your recyclable rubbish here. Below is a map of where the recycle points are located.

We also take recycling seriously, and there are many ways the Horniman makes use of the waste generated through the museum.

  • customers in cafe , Sophia Spring
    , Sophia Spring

The waste produced by the Horniman Café is also composted using an on-site Ridan composter. This produces a mulch we use to feed the Garden’s plants. The Café also has a wonderful range of 19 items supplied by Vegware. These products are made entirely from plants and commercially compostable materials. The range includes coffee cups, take-away boxes and straws.

Did you know that around 187,000 litres of water from the Aquarium is reused to water the Gardens? Once any salt has been removed, the water waste product is perfect for the gardens vast selection of plants, but the impurities it contains would harm the sensitive sea life.

Bring your own reusables

Alongside the reusable water bottles for sale in our Gift Shop, there are traveller coffee cups that reflect the Horniman’s collections. Take one of these or your own reusable cup to the Café for your coffee, tea or hot chocolate.

Currently, we are looking for alternatives to the use of plastic carrier bags in the Shop. We encourage you to bring your own reusable shopping bag (you can also find these in the Shop). We have a 5p charge on our bags to support Project Coral, an innovative coral reproductive research project led by the Horniman Aquarium with international partners. Project Coral is helping to stimulate the reproduction of the world’s coral reefs, which could decline by 60 % within the next 20 years. Catch Project Corals breakthrough moments on our website or our YouTube channel.

Locally sourced products

Each week we hold our Horniman Farmers’ Market, which sells fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables as well as organic meats and artisan breads from local independent producers. You can visit every Saturday in the Gardens. See the current stallholders here.

The Café serves fair trade tea and coffee, locally sourced meat, free-range eggs and fish from sustainable sources, as well as local beer and cakes. You can see some of their fabulous cakes on our Instagram feed.

Supporting local growers, makers and producers means that your food has less of a carbon footprint than those shipped from overseas, as well as the bonus of supporting local businesses.

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