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New Display Area in our Historic Natural History Gallery

We are unveiling a new look to the entrance of our Natural History Gallery, inviting visitors to explore our fascination with nature through new displays featuring star specimens from our Natural History collections.

Thanks to £70,000 funding from the DCMS/Wolfson Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund, new displays have been created and visitor access to the original 1901 Gallery has been improved, allowing us to re-introduce visitors to its historic Natural History Gallery and collection, bringing more of its stored collection out onto public display. This includes a new space to show the work of artists, and others, inspired by the Horniman.

Jo Hatton, Keeper of Natural History says: "This is a wonderful opportunity for us to display more of our stored collection and share our finest natural history 'treasures' with our visitors. The new displays showcase a wide range of exciting specimens, some of them old favourites, and include spectacular taxidermy specimens, Horniman butterflies and beetles – named for our founder Frederick Horniman – and fabulous fossils."

Areas within the redeveloped gallery entrance explore our longstanding fascination with nature and how it was, and still is, integrally linked to our everyday lives.

New displays are dedicated to:

  • the origins of Frederick Horniman's natural history collecting and the formation of his founding collection
  • how the collecting and discovery of new species fuelled a thirst for knowledge and an ongoing passion for nature amongst collectors and the general public alike
  • how the practice of taxidermy thrived in the 19th century and how it was increasingly used in home décor and incorporated into fashionable dress, with catastrophic consequences for many species.

Highlights on display from the Horniman's collection include: 

  • Atlantic Puffins, Little Owls, Red Kite, little Egret from Edward Hart's 19th and early 20th century collection of cased taxidermy dioramas of British birds
  • The return of the Horniman's early 20th century model of a Dodo
  • Specimens from Frederick Horniman's insect collection
  • A dome of Victorian miniature dogs
  • A taxidermy display case of an African Green-pigeon, illustrating the emergence of decorative styles for displaying taxidermy during the Victorian and Edwardian periods

The new entrance area also creates an exciting opportunity for the Horniman to borrow interesting large animal specimens from other institutions.

It also includes a space for temporary installations by artists, photographers, illustrators, designers, curators and scientists inspired by the Horniman's collections and displays.

The first display in this space will show works by Polly Morgan, an artist at the forefront of the taxidermy renaissance. Taxidermy Is Dead (Long Live Taxidermy) features Polly’s new and recent work and illustrates how taxidermy is not a 'dying art' but an evolving art form. This display can be seen from Thursday 12 March to Sunday 7 June.