Hair Trail

Hair is an incredible fibre with lots of qualities that make it a useful material in all sorts of ways. Follow our trail to see an interesting collection of hair stories from around the Horniman.
A collage style image where a Black womxn holds up two pieces of hair

Image by Ebun Oduwole

Rambisayi Marufu’s display can be found on the balcony above the World Gallery and it offers a window into African diasporic social experiments, rituals and practices of hair care.

It includes work by Gelila Negussie, Olivia Ema, Ebun Oduwole and Foluke Taylor. Intimate Archives addresses the historical lack of care in institutional archives in which Black women’s interior lives, thoughts, imaginations, and experiences are silent.

See on the Balcony Gallery above the World Gallery until Nov 2022.

Horniman family photo featuring Annie Horniman, Emslie Horniman, Frederick John Horniman and Rebekah Horniman.

Emslie Horniman, the son of Frederick John Horniman our founder, married Laura Plomer in 1886 but their relationship had not always been plain sailing.

Laura’s family disapproved of her relationship with Emslie, deeming the Horniman’s social status as inadequate. They thought of Emslie as an ‘atheist and a radical’. Laura’s parents even locked her in her room in the hope that she would come to her senses and forget about Emslie.

With no money to buy stamps, she couldn’t even write to her love. But, undeterred, Laura cut off her hair, sold it to a wigmaker in Mayfair, and bought stamps so that she could continue writing to Emslie.

It didn’t work, and the couple married in 1886.

Find out more about the first wedding at the Horniman

Horniman’s Vision display, above the World Gallery

Spike fiddle and bow

Bows for stringed instruments throughout the world are mostly strung with horsehair, and examples of this can be found throughout the Music Gallery.

Usually between 160 and 180 hairs are used to create bows, but the bow for this spike fiddle is made with a single horsehair string. The fiddle is made from a gourd, and the instrument was made in Nigeria.

Music Gallery, Listening to Order case

Buhai friction drum

The buhai is traditionally played at New Year’s celebrations in Romania.

A hank of horse hair is attached to the centre of the membrane (rabbit skin). The drum is played by wet hands being pulled alternately along the strange of horse hair.

Buhai means bull, the noise the drum makes is thought to resemble a bull.

You can hear the drum at the sound table in the Music Gallery.

Hair tubes

Hair tubes are worn by men and boys in Waiwai culture to draw attention to their hair. Strong, beautiful hair is considered masculine and so highlighting it is important. The real bird feathers signal the importance of birds. The Waiwai believe they are like birds and that the human spirit can fly to other worlds in what they call kapu, the layered universe.

On display in World Gallery, in the American encounter

A person with a black mohawk

Ⓒ Parma Ham Cult Hair by INFRINGE Magazine. Photography: Panos Damaskinidis

INFRINGE’s Cult Hair is a photographic display which celebrates hair unrestrained by mainstream beauty standards.

Devised by INFRINGE’s editors-in-chief Anthony and Pat Mascolo, this series is brought to life by Photographer Panos Damaskinidis.

See in Gallery Square until 31 August 2022.

Tulips in Sunken Gardens

Hair is great for compost, and for plants in general. You can see our compost heap in the Gardens beyond the Grasslands Garden (by the farthest London Road exit), but all of the plants and flowers in the Gardens are grown using it. Hair contains a lot of nitrogen, and helps compost to retain rainwater.

Enjoy seeing the results of this compost all around the Gardens.

Hair exhibition entrance

This exhibition puts the substance before the style and unlocks the untold stories of hair.

It explores our complex relationship with hair both on, and off, our heads; how and why we care so much about our hair, and how hair is entangled with society’s expectations and our relationships to others.

Weaving in stories from Forest Hill hairdressers to the global hair trade, and featuring the work of artists, filmmakers, designers and members of the public, Hair: Untold Stories is intimate, surprising and wide-ranging.

See Hair: Untold Stories in the Studio until 19 June 2022

Eva and Poppy, the Horniman alpacas

Eva (white) and Poppy (tan) – the alpacas in the Animal Walk

Huacaya alpacas – like Eva and Poppy in the Animal Walk – have fur that is quite similar to sheep wool in texture. It’s dense, soft, and crimpy.

Alpaca fleece, regularly shorn in the spring, has many qualities that make it really useful. It’s hypoallergenic, water repellent, wind resistant, breathable and insulating. This makes it a really good material for clothes, particularly outside wear like hiking gear. It’s also lightweight, meaning it won’t weigh you down as you’re trekking up a mountain.

Eva and Poppy are shorn annually at the Horniman, and in the past their fur has even been used by Horniman staff for knitting. Because huacaya alpaca wool is stretchy, it makes great yarn!

See Eva and Poppy daily in the Animal Walk

Display cases in the Natural History Gallery

Collections of domestic dog and pigeon breeds look at the effects of domestication and selective breeding

The Natural History Gallery is host to many animals that appear hairy, but did you know that only mammals have true hair? Mammals use their hair in a huge variety of ways. For dogs, their top coat of hair protects them from dirt and repels water, whilst their undercoat keeps them warm. Some dogs (like poodles) only have an undercoat.

Cut dog hair has many other uses. Like human hair it can be used for compost, and to knit with.

Artist Erwan Fichou’s photographic series, Dogwool, documents dog’s owners who have used their dog’s hair to make jumpers for themselves.

Maybe when next you look at the dog heads in the Natural History Gallery, try to imagine what kind of cardigans their fur would make.

See the dog heads in the Natural History Gallery and Erwan Fichou’s Dogwool series in Hair: Untold Stories