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Around the World in 80 Objects Part Four

 Our Around the World in 80 objects tour has come to a close. We've travelled through Europe, Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas, and at last, we're back in Lewisham.

Every day on our Twitter for 80 days we've been posting a new object that you can see in our World Gallery as we navigated a route around the world.

Find out how our journey came to an end as we followed in the footsteps of Phileas Fogg and celebrated human creativity, imagination, and adaptability around the world.


 

 



























Ask A Curator 2018

What would you ask one of our Curators?

  • Blue Morpho Butterfly specimen, Blue Morpho Butterfly specimen
    Blue Morpho Butterfly specimen

For this year's #AskACurator day, three of our staff - Emma-Louise Nicolls (Natural History), Margaret Birley (Musical Instruments) and Wesley Shaw (Gardens) - agreed to answer questions from tweeters all over the world. So, what was discussed? Their answers ranged from parasitic plants to good doggos and musical sand.

See some of the questions and responses below:




Read all their answers on our Twitter Moment.

Preserving History

Danielle Andrew Lynch has been volunteering in our Archives to see if being an Archivist is the career for her.

  • Invitation, An invitation from Mr F.J Horniman to the public to visit the Horniman Free Museum, from the Horniman Museum Archives Press Cuttings Scrapbook. The invitation indicates that the Museum will remain open until 9pm on Tuesday 26 December 1893., Horniman Museum and Gardens
    An invitation from Mr F.J Horniman to the public to visit the Horniman Free Museum, from the Horniman Museum Archives Press Cuttings Scrapbook. The invitation indicates that the Museum will remain open until 9pm on Tuesday 26 December 1893., Horniman Museum and Gardens

In my final year of university I decided to become an Archivist.

I’ve always had an interest in history, and being able work with history every day seemed like a fantastic career choice.

To me, history is typically seen as something we learn about at school or university, and it is often considered a hobby. But after visiting several archival repositories and interacting with other heritage professionals, it made me realise just how important the preservation and conservation of history is.

Without the reminders of the events of the past in the form of physical objects, it is difficult to recognise how things have changed in the present, and how they will continue to change in the future. As a result, this experience has furthered my ambition to become an Archivist.

Following my graduation, I began researching how one goes about getting into archiving. Having discovered that cataloguing is one of the main facets of the profession, I applied to several institutions. Alongside working at the Emery Walker Trust in Hammersmith, I began volunteering at the Horniman Museum and Gardens as a Cataloguing Volunteer based at their Study Collections Centre from June until September 2017.

My initial project was to catalogue individual descriptions of press cuttings within the Horniman Museum Press Cuttings Scrapbook (dated 1884-1901). The process of cataloguing can be lengthy, but it is essential for keeping an accurate record of the objects held in heritage institutions, as well as making information accessible for researchers.

  • Article from archives, Article titled Portrait Gallery of the Munificencies, Mr. Horniman, of Hornimans Museum dated February 1891, from the Horniman Museum Archives Press Cuttings Scrapbook, Horniman Museum and Gardens
    Article titled Portrait Gallery of the Munificencies, Mr. Horniman, of Hornimans Museum dated February 1891, from the Horniman Museum Archives Press Cuttings Scrapbook, Horniman Museum and Gardens

The press cuttings detailed a lot of the history of the early collections within the Horniman, and I thought it was brilliant that they kept records of this information. Working with the scrapbook not only gave me an introduction to cataloguing, but I also learned about the handling and preservation of heritage objects. The scrapbook, for example, was kept in a temperature controlled environment to ensure that it remained intact in between uses. Also, it needed to rest on a cushion whenever it was being used.

In September, I switched to a different project: The Adam Carse Cataloguing Project. The objective was to catalogue the correspondence, research notes and image archive of Adam Carse, an author and musician, who donated his collection of 350 musical instruments to the Horniman in 1947.

This project helped me to develop not only cataloguing skills, but also my ability to research publications, as well as relevant individuals and institutions, in order to create comprehensive research materials for future researchers. Additionally, whilst working on this project, I had the great opportunity to digitise some of the documents that I came across in the Adam Carse collection.

  • Diagrams, Hand drawn diagrams of four different types of recorder from the Musikhistoriska Museum in Stockholm from the research notes of Adam Carse, circa 1945 , Horniman Museum and Gardens
    Hand drawn diagrams of four different types of recorder from the Musikhistoriska Museum in Stockholm from the research notes of Adam Carse, circa 1945 , Horniman Museum and Gardens

Working as a volunteer at the Horniman has been a great introduction in working in a museum archive. I have had the fantastic opportunity to work with some really interesting materials, as well as being able gain invaluable experience in cataloguing which will feature as a part of my future career.

Plastic bag charge to raise funds for Project Coral

As of today, the Horniman will be charging 5p for the use of plastic bags in our shop in a bid to reduce plastic waste, and raise funds for Project Coral.

Having committed to replacing single-use plastics in our Café earlier this year, the Horniman is now looking into other ways to reduce the amount of plastic waste we produce. 

One of our longer-term aims as an organisation is to remove plastic bags from our shop and we are currently looking into alternatives. However, in the meantime, we will be introducing a 5p charge on plastic bags to encourage people to use reuseable bags.

The 5p raised from each plastic bag sales goes directly to support Project Coral, an innovative coral reproductive research project led by the Horniman Aquarium with international partners.

Together we are conducting ground-breaking work on coral reproduction and investigating ways to help save reefs around the world.

At the Horniman, we recognise our responsibility to help lead efforts to reduce plastic waste and continue to seek ways to do so.

Simply Red

What do you associate with the colour red? Danger? Love? Lust? Revolution? Red is a colour that defines often contradictory ideas and it has fascinated us from our earliest times on this planet.

Red in tooth and claw

It’s very common to find red in the natural world and the colouration can be caused by a variety of things. Most obvious perhaps is our own red blood which is caused by the oxygenation of haemoglobin in red blood cells. Iron present in haemoglobin reflects red light making our blood seem red. It is very common for iron oxides to be the source of reds in the natural world, most prominently the planet Mars is red due to a coating of iron-based dust on its surface.

Plants get their red colouring from a pigment called anthocyanin. Anthocyanins are responsible for colouring plants red, purple, and blue, depending on their pH level. They give fruit and vegetables like tomatoes, raspberries, and strawberries their colour, and also influence the shades and hues of flowers such as poppies. Anthocyanins are used in photosynthesis just as chlorophyll is but it’s thought that by not giving plants green colouration it can keep herbivores away.

  • Ladybird, The red colouring of this ladybird wards off predators by telling them they're poisonous if eaten, Pixabay CC0
    The red colouring of this ladybird wards off predators by telling them they're poisonous if eaten, Pixabay CC0

It is less common to find red in the animal world, with many of the creatures we would label as “red” actually being orange in hue. There are, however, many insects, frogs, and snakes that have red exteriors. Often this is to warn off predators by highlighting the fact many of these species are poisonous either through their bites or when eaten.

Reudh, reudh wine

The connection between humans the colour red is one that is almost fundamental to our existence. Red is one of the three colours that make up the RBG model of how humans perceive the world (find out more about that in our blog on the topic). As red is at one end of the visible spectrum of light it is rare among mammals to be able to see it, many animals such as dogs cannot tell the difference between red and green for example. Primates, however, are capable of perceiving the colour which it has been suggested is so that they can tell if certain fruit has ripened enough for consumption.

Red is also one of the earliest colours to appear in human art with our ancestors potentially making use of it as far back as 700,000 years ago. An abundance of iron oxides in nature such as ochre and hematite, which are easy to find, means that even our most primitive of ancestors would have been able to produce red dyes with ease. Having ground these minerals into dust or pastes they would have coloured their bodies or used it to create artworks such as the cave paintings in the Cave of Altamira in Spain. 

  • Cave painting, Some of the earliest art in human history was made using red ochre, Pixabay CC0
    Some of the earliest art in human history was made using red ochre, Pixabay CC0

It might not shock you, therefore, to learn that red is an ancient word, its origins, in fact, being from the Proto-Indo-European word “reudh”. As the common ancestor of Indo-European languages, this meant “reudh” would have entered languages as diverse as Sanskrit, Manx, and English.

Red and dead 

As a vibrant primary colour, red often has important connotations in various religions across the globe. In the Shinto religion of Japan entrance gates to shrines called "torii" which are considered entrances to sacred and profane places are painted vermillion. It is believed to have the power to resist and expel evil which is a belief also held by the Buddhists of China who paint their temples red for just such a purpose.

  • Cardinal, Red is this cardinal's colour, Pixabay CC0
    Red is this cardinal's colour, Pixabay CC0

In Europe, red has become closely associated with the Catholic church with cardinals and the pope often adorned in red robes. This use of red is to remind congregants of the blood of Christ and the spilled blood of the martyrs of the early church. The connection to Christ likely led to the adoption of red by European royalty too. It is still common to see royalty adorned in red cloaks as a symbol of their legitimacy and power.

Talking about a revolution

In the past 200 years, red has become a colour often linked to revolution and left-leaning politics. During the French Revolution, red flags became a rallying point as a symbol of protest and a celebration of martyrdom. In the 19th century, socialists would adopt the red flag as their own and the anthem "The Red Flag" was penned by Irishman, Jim Connell, as a call to arms. These days it may be the case that politically we associate reds with communist revolutions in Russia and China, but left-wing parties in Britain and much of Europe retain their connection to the colour. 

  • Kustodiyev_bolshevik, Boris Kustodievâs work "Bolshevik" is an example of how the red flag is associated with socialist revolution, Public Domain
    Boris Kustodievâs work "Bolshevik" is an example of how the red flag is associated with socialist revolution, Public Domain

Rembrandt to Rothko 

Artists have long been fascinated by the colour red as it draws the eye and evokes such strong emotions. Red can evoke ideas of passion and love and yet for every positive connotation, there is a negative one. Passion and love can just as easily be viewed as lust and temptation or sin. Courage or bravery goes hand in hand with danger. Red robes, dresses, and blood can be seen throughout the canon of art history, but perhaps the most defining use of red in art comes from Mark Rothko's work in the 20th century. Rothko's work so often would take the form of a simple block of red paint, perhaps of a number of shades or hues, on a large canvas. For Rothko, colour was "only an instrument" he used "in expressing human emotions tragedy, ecstasy, doom, and so on." All of which are emotions one can express with red.

  • Rothko, For Mark Rothko, colour was "only an instrument in expressing human emotion"., Pixabay CC0
    For Mark Rothko, colour was "only an instrument in expressing human emotion"., Pixabay CC0

Put on your red shoes and dance the blues

Given everything we've just been exploring it's no wonder musicians are still obsessed with the colour red. Check out our Spotify playlist on the colour and let us know if we've missed anything off. 

Reef Encounters: Dr Dirk Petersen

For the latest installment of our Reef Encounters series, we spoke to Dr. Dirk Petersen, the founder and Executive Director of SECORE International, a leading nonprofit organisation bringing like-minded people and organisations together to give coral reefs a future. 

What is your typical day?

Unless I am on a field trip, I am spending most of my day at the laptop in my office in Bremen with correspondence and conference calls.

Calls to Australia and the Pacific region are in the morning, those to the USA and the Atlantic region are in the afternoon and sometimes in the evening. I'll spend a lot of times addressing all kinds of budgets, policies, and research and education programmes.

During my travels, I visit our office in Miami, meet with partners and funders or simply enjoy a dive with our staff at one of our field sites. Keeping involved in the underwater work means a lot to me, even if it is just joining the collection of coral gametes during a night dive or exploring one of our research or restoration dive sites.

  • Dr Dirk Petersen, "Keeping involved in the underwater work means a lot to me even if it is just joining the collection of coral gametes during a night dive", Dr. Dirk Petersen, (C) Paul Selvaggio
    "Keeping involved in the underwater work means a lot to me even if it is just joining the collection of coral gametes during a night dive", Dr. Dirk Petersen, (C) Paul Selvaggio

When did you first know you wanted to work in this area, and how did you get into your work?

While studying for my Masters in Biology at Munich, I got the opportunity to work with coral larvae in an aquarium environment. These little critters were absolutely fascinating to me and a great inspiration to start exploring sexual coral reproduction.

When I did my PhD at the University of Duisburg-Essen I worked at the marine laboratory at the Rotterdam Zoo where I was maintaining aquarium systems to develop coral breeding techniques. From the beginning, I had the idea to share my findings with colleagues in the science and aquarium field.

I believed that bringing together scientists and aquarists would be very beneficial to advance coral restoration.

What inspires you in your work?

Ever since I dived for the first time in a coral reef, this wonderful underwater world has captured my imagination.

Corals are a miracle, especially when it comes to sexual reproduction. I was fascinated to manipulate reproduction, for example, to be able to control coral larval settlement within a microhabitat scale of a few millimeters, which would determine survival or death of a coral recruit.

I think my greatest inspiration is taking novel directions, putting an idea into action and joining forces with others to face big challenges. This has led to some amazing breakthroughs in the past that outsiders did not believe we would accomplish, but we did as a group.

I have been fortunate enough to work together with some of the greatest minds in the aquarium and science community, a team that will keep on going until the problem is solved.   

  • Dr Dirk Petersen 02, "Ever since I dived for the first time in a coral reef this wonderful underwater world has captured my imagination.", Dr. Dirk Petersen, (C) Vanessa Cara-Kerr
    "Ever since I dived for the first time in a coral reef this wonderful underwater world has captured my imagination.", Dr. Dirk Petersen, (C) Vanessa Cara-Kerr

What would your message for the future of reefs be?

Coral restoration could eventually be as commonly and effectively applied as reforestation has been applied for centuries. Restoration will change the landscape of reefs as it has done with forests.

Future reefs will look different to today’s reefs, which doesn’t really matter as long as they provide similar ecological and economic services. Nonetheless, coral restoration can only buy us some time. Time that we must use to solve the greatest challenge of all time – climate change.

What’s your favourite creature on the reef, and why?

Corals, of course, the most beautiful, diverse and magical organisms on our planet.

My favorite coral is the elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata). With its brownish branches, it is not one of those fancy, colorful coral species, but it makes a powerful stand against massive waves and storms where other corals would not have any chance to resist. Just this species alone absorbs more than 90% of wave energy, which would otherwise crush the coast, and creates shelter for many other species.

At the same time, the elkhorn coral is definitely the most fragile coral species I have ever worked with. If you touch it, you will spot your fingerprints the next day because the coral’s tissue will have died.

  • Dr Dirk Petersen 03, Dr. Petersen inspecting some of his favourite type of coral, the elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata), (C) Paul Selvaggio
    Dr. Petersen inspecting some of his favourite type of coral, the elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata), (C) Paul Selvaggio

What’s the oddest thing you’ve seen at sea?

During a scouting trip for a new field location in Guam, I saw some beer cans rolling around in the sand between corals. A few metres further we discovered a huge field of beer cans that were lying on the ground.

Fortunately, those cans were removed in a large clean-up a few weeks later by Underwater World, the University of Guam, and local dive schools.

What’s the next big thing for your work?

The Global Coral Restoration Project that we have launched last year together with the California Academy of Sciences and The Nature Conservancy is for sure the next big thing.

The project involves many partners and we are looking for more to join in the coming years. The goal is to develop and implement novel technologies that will allow restoration at a significantly larger scale than currently possible.

  • Dr Dirk Petersen 04, "My reef heroes are all those out of the spotlight who are teaching children about the beauty and vulnerability of coral reefs", Dr. Dirk Petersen, (C) Paul Selvaggio
    "My reef heroes are all those out of the spotlight who are teaching children about the beauty and vulnerability of coral reefs", Dr. Dirk Petersen, (C) Paul Selvaggio

Who’s your ‘reef hero’ – someone doing great work or advocacy for the future of reefs?

My reef heroes are all those out of the spotlight who are teaching children about the beauty and vulnerability of coral reefs, and how small daily habits can make a big difference to the environment.

About the Art: Bryan Alexander

We spoke with Bryan Alexander, the photographer behind our new exhibition Yamal: The Stream of Life, about working in the Arctic for almost half a century.

What are you looking for when you capture a photograph?

When I am out on the tundra or in native camps, I tend to just react to whatever is going on around me. It’s hard to plan too much ahead as things can be so unpredictable in the Arctic.

If I am working on a specific story I will often make a list of the subjects that I feel I need to photograph in order to tell the story.

What are the difficulties you face working in and photographing the Arctic and how do you overcome them? 

The cold is one obvious difficulty when working in the Arctic, especially during the winter months.

With the right clothing though I find I can keep warm enough even when photographing in temperatures as low as -58° C. When it’s very cold I usually wear a combination of modern cold weather clothing and traditional native clothes.

Finding cameras that work well at these low temperatures can be challenging, particularly nowadays with most cameras being electrically operated. Batteries lose their power much quicker at extremely low sub-zero temperatures, so I always have to carry a lot of extra batteries.

Transport can also be a problem when travelling in the Arctic, where the distances are vast. Reaching isolated camps and villages can be difficult due to the limited transport. One camp I visited in Chukotka, Siberia took me a month to reach.

During my time working in the Arctic, I have travelled by a wide variety of transport from traditional Arctic transport like dog sleds, snowmobiles, reindeer sleds, and kayaks, to modern transport, like all-terrain vehicles, motor boats, helicopters, and planes.

  • Nenets Selfie, (c) Bryan Alexander / Arcticphoto.com
    , (c) Bryan Alexander / Arcticphoto.com

Having worked in the Arctic for 47 years now, what changes have you noticed to the landscape and to the people?

Of course, the whole world has changed considerably over the past 47 years and the Arctic is no exception.

The only place that I have been and noticed a significant change in the landscape is Northwest Greenland. The warming climate has resulted in the icecap and glaciers receding considerably there.

The Politiken Glacier, which I first travelled on by dog sled in 1971, was used regularly as a route to neighbouring villages and hunting grounds by the local Inuit during the winter months. Now it is impassable by dog sled because of the receding ice and the deep crevasses that have opened up.

To me, the most striking change to affect the Arctic’s native peoples has been the steady decline in their traditional culture. There have been positive changes too, better transport, schools, healthcare etc. I feel privileged to have been able to document this period of change in the life of some of the Arctic indigenous peoples.

What is your fondest memory of working in the Arctic? Or your most notable incident?

I have many fond memories of working in the Arctic, certainly too many to mention here. I think that the most memorable incident occurred on my second trip to North Greenland.

During the winter, I went walrus hunting with three Inuit hunters from the village of Siorapaluk. We travelled by dog sled and were about 30km out on the frozen sea when the ice broke up around us.

For three days we drifted out to sea on a small ice floe, before being blown back towards the Greenland coast during a severe storm. On our fourth day adrift, the local villagers realised it was likely that we were in trouble and alerted the authorities.

Once the storm had subsided a search for us began. Two helicopters searched for us for over five hours and the pilots were on the point of abandoning their search when one of them spotted us on the ice.

Fortunately, there was a happy ending for all concerned in this rather scary incident and a few days later, we all headed out onto the frozen sea to hunt walrus again.

What is your relationship with the Nenets? How did you gain access to their communities and lives?

I first visited the Yamal in 1993 on an assignment for an American magazine. Travelling in isolated areas of Russia at that time was difficult, so I was fortunate when I was offered a ride in a helicopter to visit a remote Nenets reindeer herders’ camp.

When the helicopter landed in a forest clearing, I was amazed to see how traditional the Nenets herders were. They were living in reindeer skin tents and everyone at the camp was dressed from head to foot in traditional reindeer skin clothes.

Sergei Serotetto, the head of the group of herders, invited me to have a meal in his family’s tent. We all got on very well and I ended up asking if I could stay with them. There was a problem in that I had lost my bag containing my cold weather clothing. Sergei and his family quickly solved that problem by finding me a reindeer skin parka and long boots to wear.

I ended up staying over a month with them as they travelled from the forest north across the River Ob and then onto tundra on their 1000km spring migration. The longer I spent with these herders, the more interested I became in Nenets culture and the problems the people faced.

After I returned to the UK, I managed to persuade the magazine’s editor to send me back to the Yamal again at the end of the summer, to re-join Sergey and his family as they began their journey south back to their winter pastures.

Since my two visits there in 1993, I have returned to the Yamal on a number of occasions to document life in different camps and communities. I have photographed, not only Nenets, but also different cultures like the Khanty, Komi and Selkup, who also live in the Yamal.

  • Young girl with goose, (c) Bryan Alexander / Arcticphoto.com
    , (c) Bryan Alexander / Arcticphoto.com

What was it like returning to the Nenets over the years? What surprised you the most about how the community has changed or hasn’t?

Although I have visited the Yamal region many times since 1993, it was only in 2017 that I re-visited Sergey and his family. They were at their winter pastures and it was wonderful to be with them again. It was just like visiting old friends anywhere.

At first glance, there didn’t appear to have been much change. Sergey and his family were still living in the same reindeer skin tent and his wife Galya still made reindeer-skin clothes for the family.

However, I noticed that there had been no snowmobiles in the group back in 1993, everyone travelled by reindeer sled. Nowadays every herder drives his own snowmobile.

In 1993, there had been no electricity at the camp, candles and kerosene lamps were the only light source. Now every tent had a small portable generator, bringing not just light but enough power for laptop computers and TV. Children can watch cartoons before going to sleep, and later in the evening after they have finished their work the adults can watch movies.

In 1993, gas development in the Yamal Peninsula was just beginning. I thought that within ten years there would be no more reindeer herding on the Yamal Peninsula but I have been proved wrong. Although the reindeer herders have lost a considerable amount of their pastures to the gas industry there are now many more reindeer in the Yamal than there were in 1993.

What do you hope people take away from this exhibition?

I would like to think that people will take away an insight into Nenets culture and that the exhibition may even inspire some of them to visit the Yamal see the region for themselves. 

What do you have coming up next?

At the beginning of September 2018, I will be in Moscow for the opening of my exhibition, “The Arctic Circle of Life” at the State Museum of Oriental Art. After that, I plan to travel to Siberia’s Gydan Peninsula and photograph there for about a month.

How a dog sees colour

Visitors to our exhibition Colour: The Rainbow Revealed will have no doubt marvelled at the contraptions allowing them to see the world as animals do.

Our exhibition gives you the chance to view the world around you not as a human but as a dog, fish, and bee may do. But why exactly do these animals see the world differently to us?

A dog’s life

It’s often suggested that dogs are colour-blind which isn’t strictly true. Dogs can see colour just not as many as humans. This is because dogs have one less type of colour-detecting cell in their eye. These cells are known as cones and whereas humans have three, dogs only have two.

Each cone is sensitive to a certain wavelength of light which sends a signal to the brain allowing us to process colour. Human eyes can detect red, green, and blue which allows us to see any colour that is a combination of these wavelengths of light. Due to only having two cones, dogs can only detect yellow and blue thus meaning they cannot tell the difference between objects that are red and green.

So if you’re pondering whether to get Rover a green jacket or a red jacket this Christmas don’t worry about it, it will all be grey to him.

  • Dog in nature, All that splendour and it can hardly tell the difference, Pixabay CC0
    All that splendour and it can hardly tell the difference, Pixabay CC0

Eye of the bee-holder

Like humans, bees are able to detect three colours and can see any colours that are a combination of them. Unlike humans, however, bees cannot detect the colour red. Instead, their photoreceptors pick up green, blue, and ultraviolet light – the latter of which is not detectable by humans.

To attract bees to nectar, flowers often have petals a different colour to their leaves so bees can tell what to target. Some flowers including sunflowers even make use of ultraviolet to attract pollinators.

Bees are particularly attracted to purple, violet, and blue, but also to a colour known as “bee’s purple” that humans cannot see as it is a mixture of yellow and ultraviolet. If you were wondering what colour flowers to place in your pollinator garden there’s your answer.

  • Planting for pollinators: help save the bees and butterflies, We told you they like purples, Andrea Benson
    We told you they like purples, Andrea Benson

Fish-eye view

There are plenty of fish in the sea but sadly that means we can’t make definitive statements about all fish seeing all the same colours. However, we can talk about how the way life underwater affects colour vision.

Vision underwater is obviously very different to vision above. Water absorbs light, which is why as the depth of water increases vision is swiftly impaired. Light with longer wavelengths which allow the detection of colours like orange and red, are absorbed by water much faster than light with short wavelengths, such as green, blue, and ultraviolet. This can vary of course, as different bodies of water may have different properties such as increased salinity or unique chemicals in water.

A fish that lives in shallow water will find far more use out of photoreceptors that allow it to see oranges and reds than a fish that lives in the deep ocean where these wavelengths don’t reach.

Like bees, many fish have evolved to be able to detect ultraviolet light for a number of reasons. Two-stripe damselfish, for example, have a colouration that can reflect ultraviolet light. When a predator is close they will use their colouration to warn other fish capable of seeing ultraviolet light of danger.

  • Common clownfish Amphiprion percular, Many of the fish found in shallower waters are more vibrant than their oceanic counterparts
    Many of the fish found in shallower waters are more vibrant than their oceanic counterparts

Enter the dragonfly

If you thought all of that was impressive prepare to be blown away. Humans and bees may be able to detect three different types of light, but studies of dragonflies have shown that these insects can detect no fewer than 11 wavelengths and as many as 30.

As far as we’re aware this is the most of any creature alive on earth and means that dragonflies can pick out colours we couldn’t even dream of.

  • Dragonfly, With as many as 30 photoreceptors there's no way of knowing what colours dragonflies can discern, Pixabay CC0
    With as many as 30 photoreceptors there's no way of knowing what colours dragonflies can discern, Pixabay CC0

The Mantle of Animism

Marcelo Camus from the Arts Team at St Christopher’s Hospice tells us about a project initiated through the Horniman’s new art programme The Studio, which was performed at one of our summer Big Wednesdays.  

Her mantles are made from the finest materials, including gold threads, and her mantle covers all of her body apart from her face and hands...her devotees can touch her mantle, leave prayer notes beneath her feet or place their head on the back of her mantle and ask for a miracle. This is the custom of the shrine... The Handbook of Contemporary Animism by Graham Harvey

What inspired the project?

The Horniman’s new co-curated area The Studio with a programme and commissioned exhibition have offered opportunities for community groups to create their own project for visitors for the family summer programme.

  • The Mantle of Animism, Planning the Mantle of Animism, St Christopher's Hospice
    Planning the Mantle of Animism, St Christopher's Hospice

Patients and carers visited the Horniman with St Christopher’s Arts Team to see the collections and to understand ideas of ethnographic curating and collecting. Inspired by the theme of Animism in nature, introduced by The Studio Collective and artist Serena Korda, but looking at it form a perspective of healing and medicine, two topics very close to the hearts of those in end of life care.

Inspired by this visit to the Horniman patients began working on a large-scale magical mantle and other inspired animals and objects. Made of a myriad of hand-felted imagery - the hyde of a large human-animal mask.

The Mantle has been worked on intensively and majestically performed at the Hospice as part of our annual summer exhibition.

What processes were involved in making the Mantle

We ran groups every day of the week and brought the animism concepts into all of them. On Mondays the community choir, made up of 80 members, created a song for the performance.

  • The Mantle of Animism, People making the Mantle of Animism, St Christopher's Hospice
    People making the Mantle of Animism, St Christopher's Hospice

On Tuesdays our Open Access Art Group explored dry felting to create a large surface fabric, while on Wednesdays, the group designed masks made into fling bird like puppets.

Thursdays and Fridays we continued to work with the mantle through dry and wet felting techniques.

We also invited school groups to come to work with the patients on the theme and to contribute to the project. This enables young people to visit the Hospice and dispel fear, taboos and stigma around death and dying.

Eventually after tremendous effort we created a magnificent magical beast!

Seeing the Mantle take shape and progress week after week has been so exciting. The stories, conversation and imagination that take place in sessions from each person is powerful. We hope this was communicated to audiences at the Big Wednesday event at the Hormiman.

  • The Mantle of Animism, The Mantle of Animism during a performance, St Christopher's Hospice
    The Mantle of Animism during a performance, St Christopher's Hospice

Tell us about St Christopher’s Hospice

The Hospice have been building their partnership with the Horniman over the last two years, and have a dedicated team of arts therapists and artists who run workshops for patients, families, carers and community members.

As neighbours in Sydenham, we think it is important to establish a working partnership with the Horniman. The many collections available right next to us, from anthropological funerary and ritual items through to musical instruments, all play a role in the importance or moment of death in our lives.

No one goes untouched by this, yet our tools to deal with it are underdeveloped and unspoken.

The Arts Team at St Christopher’s places this at centre stage, creating artworks in response to what people are thinking and feeling at the end of their lives. What better place to showcase this powerful message that a Museum dedicated to the artefacts we leave behind?

Tell us about yourself

For St Christopher’s I have helped lead on many large-scale collaborative projects both in and out of the Hospice.

My own artistic practice sits within what is termed Social Art Practice. I have been commissioned by organisations to create live immersive events, installations, social interventions and outdoor arts with communities and the public.

I contribute this experience to the Arts Team at the Hospice to consider how we can enable the patients and give them agency to create powerful social gestures. The focus of my work is about collaboration, co-authorship and positive group dynamics.

See The Lore of the Land exhibition from 20 October in The Studio.

Around the World in 80 Objects Part Three

Our Around the World in 80 objects tour is now over halfway complete. With Asia under our belts, we're starting our island hopping tour of Oceania.

Every day on our Twitter for 80 days we'll be posting a new object that you can see in our World Gallery as we navigate a route around the world.

We'll take you over mountains, deserts, and oceans, as we plot a course that shows the global span of our Anthropology collection.

Having started right here in England, so far we've moved south through Europe, across Africa, and swept through Asia. Now we'll go island-hopping through Oceania, and traverse the Americas, before swinging back around to Lewisham via the Arctic.

So join us as we follow in the footsteps of Phileas Fogg and celebrate human creativity, imagination, and adaptability around the world.














 

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