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Horniman Youth are Charmed and Hypnotised

Artist Rachel Emily Taylor has been working at the Horniman as part of an Arts Council Award project, Charmed & Hypnotised. The project explores the Horniman's collection of British charms and amulets.

Working alongside hypnotherapist Lorna Cordwell, with the support of Professor Giuliana Mazzoni, Rachel collaborated with members of the local community to explore the benefits of the charms through touch and hypnotic inductions. The participants were not told what the charm was before they worked with it and their experience was audio recorded.

The project allowed for the participants to think outside the standard set of meanings presented in relation to the objects. For example, rather than reading facts about the origin of the item, they could focus on the temperature of the object: was it hot or cold?

  • Image-from-Charmed-and-Hypnotised, Charmed and Hypnotised, Rachel Emily Taylor
    Charmed and Hypnotised, Rachel Emily Taylor

The audio recordings can be considered as an alternative “caption” to accompany the Horniman objects.

Listen to the hypnotic recordings.

The research was disseminated through art workshops with the Horniman Youth Panel.

The group listened to the recordings and, without seeing what the object was, drew what they thought it might be. Like a game of Telephone.

  • Image-from-Charmed-and-Hypnotised, Charmed and Hypnotised, Rachel Emily Taylor
    Charmed and Hypnotised, Rachel Emily Taylor

The artwork made during the workshop with the Horniman Youth Panel will be included in a publication and an exhibition on the project, which will take place at V22 Louise House in August 2017.

Funded through the National Lottery by Arts Council England.

The Badger at Burgh House

Hello, I’m Becky Lodge the Curator at Burgh House, an historic house with a local history museum, based in Hampstead.

We borrowed the Object in Focus taxidermy badger from the Horniman last year and the staff all became very fond of her. We have no natural history specimens in our own collection, and the badger is super cute.

The badger featured in an exhibition of picture postcards of Hampstead called Hello from Hampstead! Discovering a History through Postcards.

Hampstead is a suburb of London that has been a popular visitor destination for centuries, especially for its vast and famous Heath. Not only is the Heath an incredible place to explore, it is host to a wonderful variety of plants and animals.

The badger helped us to show this, complementing our postcards beautifully.

Working with Sarah and the conservators from the Horniman on the loan was a really enjoyable experience. The whole process was so well managed, it was a delight for our small team. Thanks, Horniman Museum and Gardens!

Find out more about our Object in Focus loans project.

Discover more from Burgh House on their website or connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.

Photography on a Large Scale

One of the aims of the Collections People Stories project is to properly image and accurately document a much larger part of our Anthropology collections than has ever been done before. While most of our objects are fairly small, the size of some objects offer some extra challenges.

In June 2014, I started planning for the “Long Object Photography” Project, which was about photographing very long objects from our Anthropology collection as part of the Collection People Stories Project that had been running since June 2012.

The objects to be photographed by me and reviewed by the CPS teams were mainly canoes, some of them up to 7.5metres long. Some of these object had no record shots or if they had they were not good enough for a documentation point of view.

The main issue was space: where to photograph such long objects? Our studio space wouldn’t be big enough so my first idea was to photograph them outside but in order to do so we would need to build a marquee to protect the objects from the environment.

After a lot of discussions and visits from specialist art movers we realised that the biggest canoe would only come out of its storage if the entire shelf surrounding it came apart and for that to happen we would need to make a lot of space beforehand, breaking down other shelves around it.

Once this was agreed, I then reassessed the area and came up with an indoors solution for the photography set up, which not only would allow the objects to be in a safer environment but also meant we would spend much less on hiring the marquee. This new solution meant that all the electric cables and wires attached to the photographic equipment would be hanging from the ceiling, meaning a much safer working condition for all the staff needed to make this project happen.

On 24th November, the specialist art movers arrived and started breaking down Hall 1 at SCC – the Horniman Museum storage area where the canoes are located – and leaving the canoes ready for the conservators to clean them.

On the 5th December we started the photography – which was like being in a film set, with lots of people around where each had their own role and just had to be waiting to get in action when needed. By the end of the week we had managed to photograph and review the objects and on the following week the art movers put everything back in place.

I also made a time-lapse of the whole process, so you can have a taste of how it all worked out. A bit of a behind the scene!

 You can find out more about our behind the scenes work at our event Secret Late.

Enter a European Design Challenge

  • Food and Drink, Some objects from the Horniman's collection relating to food and drink: a teapot from India, a cup from England, a porringer from Romania and a butter container from Ethiopia.
    Some objects from the Horniman's collection relating to food and drink: a teapot from India, a cup from England, a porringer from Romania and a butter container from Ethiopia.

Calling all designers, makers, creatives and crafts-people! Have you ever been inspired while visiting a museum?

The Horniman is a partner in a Europe-wide project called Europeanan Food and Drink. It aims to create exciting products inspired by Europe's rich food and drink heritage.

Our recently launched web app Tea Trail London is our contribution to the project.

The project has recently launched a product design challenge with two prizes of €2,000.

Explore food and drink related collections (like those above) in Europeana and also on the Horniman site.

Use the inspiration you find there to design a 2D or 3D product - it could be product packaging, towls or tiles or something we've not thought about so far. The two winners (one for 2D and one for 3D) will receive €2,000 which will be presented at a Challenge Event in January in Seville, Spain.

To enter, make a short video explaining your product idea.

The closing date for entries is 20 December 2015. There is lots more information on the Europeana Food and Drink website

We'd love to see your ideas. If you have any questions, feel free to tweet us or Europeana Food and Drink.


An evening of coral

This week we hosted our exclusive Members’ Coral Reefs: Talk and Tour. A special event in partnership with the Natural History Museum which explored our recent collaboration on their exhibition, Coral Reefs: Secret Cities of the Sea.

Ken kicking the event off to a full house in Gallery Square

With half the Members from the NHM and half from the Horniman, Gallery Square buzzed with excitement about our mutual coral interest.

Our Members enjoying a private view of our popular aquarium

The evening gave Members a fascinating insight into coral reefs and the threats that face our marine life with interesting talks by NHM’s coral reefs expert, Ken Johnson, and Horniman Aquarium Curator Jamie Craggs.  

Ken gave a fascinating introduction to corals, which are in fact an animal, made up of thousands of tiny polyps. It was shocking to see the serious effect of coral bleaching and how that has completely changed the history of coral reefs.

Members also enjoyed one to one chats with curator Jamie and Ken from the Natural History Museum

Jamie complimented this talk well by reflecting on the exhibition collaboration, the amazing installation of the tank at the Natural History Museum and introduced Project Coral; an innovative coral sexual reproductive research project.

A behind the scenes look at our Mangrove display

After the talks, the Members had an exclusive behind the scenes tour of the Aquarium, an opportunity to look closer at the ground-breaking work of Horniman Project Coral.

You can find out more about Horniman Project Coral here 



A Tale of Tea Packaging

Tea Trail London is the newest page in the Horniman's tea story. Tea has been an integral part of our collections and museum, dating right back to the 19th century when Frederick Horniman's tea trade was at its height.

Frederick Horniman left his mark on the tea trade by using mechanical devices to speed the process of filling pre-sealed packages, rather than selling tea loose.

This greatly reduced the cost of production and maintained a higher quality of tea. Unsurprisingly, some of Horniman’s competitors were a little disgruntled, but by 1891 Horniman's was the largest tea trading business in the world.

The Horniman tea packaging is still very iconic, featuring the coiling dragon like in the example above. One of the great things about working on Tea Trail London was the chance to explore other collections, and we found Horniman tea in other institutions.

This tea advert is from the Museum of Brands and is a packet we hadn’t seen before, here at the Horniman. Interestingly, red seems to be the colour of choice for tea packaging, like this Typhoo example, also from the Museum of Brands and this Horniman packet in our collection:

Tea Trail London is viewable online, you can check out some of our tea collections as well as archives, objects and stories from other collections, from afternoon tea to tea packets, it’s all there!

Be sure to tweet, instagram or facebook us using #TeaTrailLondon and let us know your thoughts, or if you have any tea stories to share.


Give a Dog a Bone

As we continue to improve the storage of our natural history collections, we have been able to reunite yet another specimen with its missing elements. Today we are working on a dog skeleton.

A perfect fit! This portion of cranium and mandible belong together.

In this case we were able to unite this skeleton with its cranium.

Working through the disarticulated skeleton.

Volunter Lizzy lining up the dog's vertebrae.

All together, the specimen is now housed together in one box.

Knowing the specimen’s journey to the Horniman Museum was via Kings’ and Chelsea College, curator Paolo and volunteer Lizzy were able to reunite this dog with its cranium. Excellent detective work!

This dog is one of many happily reunited specimens. We previously featured a porpoise whose flipper was reunited on our in-the-horniman tumblr page. Be sure to follow the tumblr blog to find out more about our activities behind the scenes.

Seeing Double

Documentation Assistant Rachel updates us on what the Collections People Stories team are getting up to in the stores.

Having reviewed over 27,000 objects from the Anthropology collection to date, the teams are currently pausing to carry out another important task: removing duplicate object records from our database.

Why do we have duplicates? Over the long history of the Horniman, some of our objects have become detached from their identifying numbers, labels, or other documentation. These have been assigned temporary numbers so that we can still keep track of everything that we have. Thanks to sterling detective work by our curators and the review teams, we are now able to identify some of these objects and reconcile them with our original accession records.

The teams are currently trawling through the database, copying all of the information from the temporary records into the ‘real’ record for each object and then deleting the redundant duplicates. This tidying work is important: the aim is that eventually each object will have only one record containing all of its information, so that we know exactly how many items we have in the collection, and where they all are. Duplicated information can cause confusion for both staff and visitors, and just makes our database look untidy!

The process may sound somewhat laborious (and it is!), but it is also quite exciting: a number of the objects with temporary numbers are from our founding collection, acquired over the years by Frederick Horniman and first catalogued between 1897 and 1899. It is very satisfying to restore the true identities of our oldest objects. The earliest number so far reconciled is object number 18, a beautiful Japanese clay figure of two shishi (lions) fighting.

Other important objects reconciled with their original numbers are these two Belu heads from Burma.

They are number 649 in our accession register, and they are important not just for being part of Mr Horniman’s collection, but they were also collected by him on a journey he made to Burma in the late 1890s after he retired from the tea trade.

So far we have reconciled the records for over 500 objects, including spoons, skillets, swords, charms, containers and chess pieces. There is a long way to go, and it will take years (if ever!) to achieve a duplicate-free database, but we are making a good start.

Keep up with the team from the stores on Twitter @HornimanReviews, or follow their Tumblr blog for more fascinating finds from the stores.

The Islington Twins and Ibeiji

Assistant Curators Tom and Johanna share the story of another behind the scenes visit and reveal some of our collections objects representing 'twinness'.

A couple of weeks ago we hosted a visit from the charming, stylish and erudite Chuka and Dubem Okonkwo, aka Chet and Joe, aka The Islington Twins. Well known on the London fashion, fine art and general culture circuit Chet and Joe make a big impression even before you meet them: they are identical twins, who more often than not dress identically.

Chet and Joe’s parents come from Onitsha, a city in Southern Nigeria. They told us how:

In Onitsha... twins are considered a double blessing. If they are identical twins, their parents are considered to be extremely lucky. We've always found the jubilant reaction from Africans who meet us in London peculiar. Westerners are excited with the idea of seeing 'two peas in a pod'(we don't believe there's such a thing), and curious about whether we feel each other's pain. Africans tend to bless us and our parents. Over the years we've been blessed by many strangers.

At the Horniman we have a collection of ibeiji twin figures, and other objects from around the world associated with ‘twinness’, which we were keen to share with Chet and Joe. Ibeiji are very moving objects, made on the sad occasion of the death of a twin at or shortly after birth. They are traditionally said to hold the soul of the twin, cared for by the family in the same way one might care for a loved-one. Some of our examples show signs of the careful attention once bestowed upon them, with marks where they have been gently and repeatedly rubbed.

We wanted to show Chet and Joe some light-hearted objects too. Since they are known for their love of English clothing and can at times cut a dapper dash we shared some of our favourite fashion items made in Nigeria, yet very British indeed. These included a strange little model of a District Officer in horn-rimmed glasses, a smart little jacket, a pith helmet and a nice little pipe. It is the work of Thomas Ona Odulate, a well known Yoruba artist who made fun of colonial administrators through such models between 1900 and 1950.

  • Detail of an adire Oba shirt depicting King George V and Queen Mary along with scorpions, a Guinea fowl and a peacock, The shirt is printed with indigo using a stencil cut from a British tea cadd
    The shirt is printed with indigo using a stencil cut from a British tea cadd

Chet and Joe were only at our stores for a couple of hours, but they managed to say something positive and sometimes even inspiring to almost everyone working there. We were left with the feeling that we had met two very unusual and rather wonderful people.

Adventures in the Costume Stores

Jack Davy is part of the Horniman's Collections People Stories team, working to carry out a review of our vast and varied Anthropology collections. Here, he explains the importance of photographing objects and uncovers some gems from the stores.

Over the last few months, as part of the Collections People Stories project, I have been working one day a week at the Horniman stores on the collections of European and Asian costume.

The Horniman has an enormous, diverse and fascinating collection of clothing and textiles from all over the world. Many of these objects are inherently fragile and therefore can only be put on display for short periods of time.

Thankfully, modern technology allows for much greater interaction between the public and these delicate objects, many of which are accompanied by stories of travel, adventure and ingenuity.

  • Albanian tunic, 18.2.53/24

This is where I come in.

My role involved taking photographs of costume that can be used to provide a record of the object at a particular point in time. This is useful for a number of reasons:

  • Slovakian apron, 1.8.65/1

  • It enables the museum’s curators to send images to experts (many living in far-flung places), who can provide detailed feedback on the costumes. Then these objects can be incorporated into wider narratives of human society that underpin the study and display of anthropology at the museum.
  • These photos will help the museum’s conservation team in the future to compare the photographs to the objects checking for any deterioration or damage over time- a constant concern with these kind of fragile objects.
  • It enables the general public, whether expert or not, to view and interact with these collections remotely.

  • Chinese silk jacket, nn525

Both the European and Asian costume collections at the Horniman are remarkably strong, including a diverse array of clothing worn at important festivals and feast days.

  • Gujarati dress, nn3577

If you are interested in learning more, why not explore the Horniman's collections online to discover thousands of objects already reviewed, and let us know what you think. You can also get in touch with the project team on Twitter.

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