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Horniman Highlights Tour

Follow this trail to discover some of the highlights of the collections on display here at the Horniman.

Made by Fred Stevens in 1966, this incomplete design is called “Whirling Log”.

It represents a lake in the centre with logs floating to the shore, pointing north, south, east and west. Male and female deities stand on the logs, with white corn, yellow pumpkin, grey bean, and black tobacco brought as gifts.

See it at the Museum entrance.

The Walrus has been on display here at the Horniman for more than a century.

Our Walrus is an unusual taxidermy specimen, it appears stretched and ‘over stuffed’ as it lacks the skin folds a walrus in the wild would have. Over 100 years ago, not many people (outside of Artic regions) had ever seen a live walrus, so it is hardly surprising that ours does not look true to life.

See it in the Natural History Gallery.

This is the earliest known example of a hoop-shaped horn made in England.

Before this time, most horns in England were short, straight instruments used in hunting. This circular design was patterned on horns played in French courts. William Bull – who made this instrument – is thought to be the earliest English maker to use the term ‘French horn’ to describe his instruments.

See it in our Music Gallery.

Made in 1937 and played in the 1940s and 50s by George Robertson in his band ‘The Five Aces’, the Carlton drum kit was popular with performers because of its compact design and varied components.

After the First World War, American jazz became popular in the UK. Percussion instruments made for the British jazz scene reflected those in the US, where drum kits had been used since the mid 1920s.

See it in our Music Gallery.

The oak tree near the Sound Garden is the oldest tree in the Gardens. It dates back to before the Horniman was established, when the land was fields.

Oaks are our most important native tree, they are often called ‘keystone’ species because it has a disproportionately large effect on its environment relative to its abundance. It is thought that one oak tree is home to 500+ species compared to the sycamore that supports just 15 or so.

See it in the Gardens.

This torture chair is one of Frederick Horniman’s original purchases.

Made from wrought iron, it was reputed to have been used in a dungeon in Cuenca in Spain in the 17th century.

We now know that although many components are genuine the chair was greatly added to in the 19th century to feed the Victorians’ interest in gruesome historical displays.

See it in our World Gallery, on the upstairs Balcony.

Papier-maché figures like this were created for traditional religious celebrations.

The figure is based on a story from Hindu mythology, in which Kali – the mother goddess and consort of Shiva – kills a monster that was destroying the world. Kali dances on Shiva after he lay down in front of her to calm her down, as her celebratory dance was so frenzied it shook the world.

See it in our World Gallery.

These masterpieces of bronze art from Benin City, Nigeria act as a permanent record of the important people and events in the history of the kingdom.

Such plaques hung on the walls of the Royal Palace, and show past kings, merchants, warriors, chiefs and famous priests. They recorded events, stories, trade arrangements, triumphs and victories.

See them in our World Gallery.

This display showcases Egyptian mummies from the New Kingdom (1570-1070 BC). This coffin dates to the 21st Dynasty.

The coffin was presented to the Horniman in 1896 by the Egypt Exploration Fund in gratitude for a donation of £100 made by Frederick Horniman to Edouard Naville, the French archaeologist in charge of the Fund’s dig at Deir el-Bahri.

See it in the World Gallery, on the Balcony.

This clock shows scenes from the life of Jesus. Its name comes from the top part which shows Jesus’ twelve apostles (his followers) passing in front of him, bowing, at 4pm every day.

The clock appears to have been made by a craftsman in the Black Forest, Germany, around the middle of the 19th Century, from a variety of parts and materials.

See it on the Natural History Gallery balcony.

Although delicate looking, jellyfish are extremely well designed for where they live in the open ocean. These predators use thousands of stinging cells on trailing tentacles to stun and kill prey to eat.

We cultivate our own jellyfish in the Aquarium, recreating their various life stages behind the scenes. This forms part of the extensive research work we do with the animals in our collection.

See them in our Aquarium.