Hair: Untold Stories

At the Horniman we researched within our collections, and beyond, to create a new exhibition – Hair, Untold Stories – which will was on 2021-22.

How do you relate to the fibre that grows from your head?

Hair is so familiar to us that we rarely stop to think about what an extraordinary fibre it is.

The exhibition showcased unexpected stories about hair, from personal stories in south London salons to tales of global hair trade networks.

Through our collections we explored how hair has been used in ingenious ways by many communities across the world for making things like jewellery, clothing and rope.

Why are we so emotionally invested in our hair?

Do we feel differently about it once it is cut from our heads?

Hair is far from being a neutral material – it is fraught with expectations about beauty, identity, age, gender and race.

We showcased both personal contributions about hair from our south London communities as well as a range of hair artworks made by local and international artists.

The exhibition was co-curated by Horniman staff with anthropologist Professor Emma Tarlo, Goldsmiths, University of London. The lead curator for the Horniman was Dr Sarah Byrne.

You can see Hair: Untold Stories at:

  • Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery (Carlisle):  1 October 2022 to 8 January 2023
  • Weston Park, Sheffield Museums Trust:  10 February to 29 October 2023

Community fieldworkers

In 2020 the Horniman recruited 20 people from the diverse south London community to share their hair stories.

The fieldworkers met biweekly on Zoom to share their hair stories, learn about interviewing techniques, museum curation, and meet artists and anthropologists who work with hair.

Photo by Panos Damaskinidis for INFRINGE magazine.