Collections People Stories

From 2012 to 2015, we undertook a detailed physical and intellectual review of our Anthropology collections.

Working with communities and researchers, Collections People Stories: Anthropology Reconsidered set out to uncover the range, scale and importance of the Horniman’s Anthropology collections – both in storage and on display.

Throughout, we used new and innovative methods of collections research, engagement and interpretation.

The Horniman secured a Renaissance Grant from Arts Council England (ACE) to support this major collections review.

Project outcomes

  • We reassessed the potential of our African, South Asian, North American, Oceanian and European collections, working with academics and local communities to identify the collections’ importance and contemporary relevance.
  • We worked creatively with academic and community partners to help us develop a bid to the (then) Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for the redisplay of our Anthropology collections.
  • We physically reviewed our anthropology collections in our stores, involving documentation, new photography, and conservation.
  • We physically reviewed our Anthropology collections in our stores, involving documentation, new photography, and conservation.
  • We developed our website functionality, our collections online platform and the digital and online engagement with our collections amongst our audiences.

Project themes

We developed project themes, initially based on the way our objects are stored. Each theme had a focused period of review work, a series of talk or lecture events and was concluded with a workshop or conference which was filmed and posted online as part of the project’s digital engagement work.

Our themes were:

  • Food and feasting | January-July 2013
  • Health and healing (magic and religion) | July-December 2013
  • Family and home | January-July 2014
  • War and peace-making | July 2014–March 2015

Project results

  • We reviewed more than 30,000 objects.
  • We photographed 12,000 objects.
  • We conserved and assessed the condition of more than 1,200 objects
  • Digital engagement with collections
  • We shared 33,876 objects online via our website.
  • We created 67 blogs on
  • We shared 846 posts on tumblr, where we gained 36,373 followers, with 24,375 interactions
  • Digital engagement work, through blogs, stories, and social media channels has been hugely successful and is a major legacy of the project.
  • In our community engagement work, we established significant new partnerships and practices
  • We developed themes and approaches for the anthropology gallery re-display, selecting star objects for display and regional case studies, resulting in a  successful Stage 1 HLF bid, confirmed in October 2014.

The project created significant community and academic partnerships for the museum, many of which continued to be built upon during the development of the World Gallery, which opened in June 2018.

Arts Council England

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