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Extremely fascinating objects

Our Extremes Late event tomorrow night is all about extremes: extremely hot music, extremely rude art and extremely high acrobatics.

It's also a chance for us to present a selection of extremely interesting objects from our collections.

Expect some extremely strange, cold, romantic, ugly or even extremely disappointing objects. Here's a preview of just three.

This extremely magical object from Poland removes spells from cows whose milk is failing, a sign that the cow may be bewitched. The udder would be placed through hole for milking, thus removing the spell.

This extremely cute object is a stuffed toy from Canada. We're pretty sure that it is an owl. And, as it's made from white fur, it's also extremely fluffy.

This extremely scary object is a Halloween mask. It's made from square piece of sacking cloth with three holes for eyes and mouth, and black and brown painted facial features.

These are only three of our extreme objects. Come along tomorrow night to see more. Tickets are on sale here

Taxidermy on Film

Dan Brown (MASH Cinema) is providing the film programme for our Taxidermy Late. Here he tells us a bit more about it.

My view of taxidermy is shaped by Jan Švankmajer’s film, ‘Alice’; a little macabre but truly captivating. Even now, wandering around natural history galleries in museums, I love looking at the specimens and the characters created by the taxidermists.


When programming the films for the Horniman’s Taxidermy Late, I wanted to include a mixture of genres, allowing me to explore different areas of this fascinating subject. Hopefully showing a truer representation of it: one of integrity, artistry and scientific discovery.

Below is a short introduction to some of the selected films.

'The Taxidermist' by Bertie Films

Produced by Warp Films, this eccentric short film explores what would happen if pets lived forever, thus leaving a taxidermist without work.

'Le Taxidermiste' by Le Taxidermiste Team

This beautifully made French animation deals with the fate of a taxidermy collection after the death of its creator. It’s time to say goodbye to what is left behind.

‘Taxidermists’ by Nicole Triche

This documentary follows two taxidermists at the biennial World Taxidermy Competition, providing a glimpse into the often overlooked world of art, science and competition.

Modern Taxidermy: Mounting the Indian Elephant from American Museum of Natural History

Rich Remsberg’s edit of this archival film (1927) documents Carl Akeley's taxidermy process from the raw hide to the finished display.

These films will be shown in collaboration with Electric Pedals who will use the energy created by the audience to power the cinema.


Today is the last day you can buy tickets for Taxidermy Late in advance: book yours now to be in with the chance of skipping the queues and having enough time to watch MASH Cinema's fabulous film selection.

Ethical taxidermy: where do the animals come from?

Ahead of next week's Late event, taxidermist Jazmine Miles-Long blogs for us on the history of her craft and where she sources her specimens.

Taxidermy has evolved a lot since it first became popular in the early nineteenth century. Most of the specimens collected during this time (including the specimens at the Horniman) would have been collected from overseas. The animals would have be killed, their skins salted, and then shipped back to the UK to be mounted by a taxidermist. The skins may have been sent with no measurements at all and the taxidermist had probably never seen the animal in real life so this is partly the reason why most Victorian taxidermy looks a little odd.

  • Horniman Walrus, A fine example of taxidermy that isn't an accurate representation of the living animal.
    A fine example of taxidermy that isn't an accurate representation of the living animal.

Taxidermy in the modern world however is very different. Although trophy taxidermy does still exist, most taxidermists work using animals that have not been killed purely for the purpose of taxidermy. There are also laws protecting certain species which means a taxidermist must obtain legal paperwork to prove they have died naturally.

I call myself an ethical taxidermist as I only use animals that have died from a natural cause or accident. All of my specimens have been donated to me by family, friends, rescue centres or strangers that find me via my website or Twitter.

The animals I work with may have been hit by a car, flown into a window or died from old age or illness. This means I never know what animals I’m going to receive and the condition they’re going to be in. Using animals sourced in this way can often be problematic as more work has to be done, such as: fixing broken skulls and replacing lost fur and feathers. Occasionally it means I will start work on an animal but find it is no good to use and have to throw it away which I find very sad and frustrating.

Methods in taxidermy have also dramatically improved throughout the years. Many modern materials and techniques mean the results can be amazingly realistic. If you would like to learn more about taxidermy the UK’s Guild of Taxidermists hold an annual conference every March. It’s the best place to meet other taxidermists and learn techniques through talks and demonstrations.

I will be showing my method of bird taxidermy at the Horniman Museum and Gardens Taxidermy Late in the evening on Thursday 27 February, so come along and feel free to ask me as many questions as you like.

The Big Draw at the Horniman

A couple of weeks ago, the Horniman took part in the annual Big Draw event. This national campaign for drawing sees events spring up all over the UK to encourage people to have a go at drawing, and not just with pencils and paper.

At our Big Draw event, we asked visitors to first choose a word from our list, then to explore the galleries and choose an object that reminded them of their word. The creative bit came in when they were asked to draw their object and then use the drawing to create an artwork from wires and pipecleaners which joined together with everyone else's art to create a massive wire image.

The word choices were ‘love’, ‘memory’, ‘power’, ‘belief’, ‘safety’ and ‘exchange’. Can you guess which word inspirec each of these images?

Some visitors spent their time making faithful reproductions of objects from the collection.

While some chose to set their creativity free and created images not strictly related to the Horniman.

But it wasn’t just about fun and creativity. Events like these are a fantastic opportunity for us to learn from our visitors. For instance, ‘love’ was the run-away winner in the popularity stakes: over half the participants chose this word. Words like ‘safety’ and ‘exchange’ were not chosen nearly as often. Stats like these help us learn which ideas are important to people, and which we should be exploring further.

It also helps to highlight popular objects from the collections: many people chose to recreate masks on display in African Worlds and the Centenary Gallery.

What we learn from events like the Big Draw will be used to inform future developments at the museum so that our visitors can get the most out of the Horniman and its collections.

At the end of the day, all the artworks created were displayed in Gallery Square.

We’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who took part in this year’s Big Draw. Our learning team are always looking for more ways for our audience to participate in the museum’s future, and we hope to plan plenty more fun and creative events for the future.

#LatinLate at the Horniman

What's Growing in the Gardens - August 2013

It’s Love Parks Week: the perfect opportunity to come and visit the Horniman Gardens and the perfect opportunity to show you some of the wonderful things that we have been growing!

Our first World Food Garden harvest of 2013 produced peas, broad beans, summer berries, the first onions, some beautiful yellow courgettes and a huge marrow.

The vegetable garden is abundant with growing delicacies at the moment, which are used in special dishes in our café and in Education and Community group workshops. Over the next few weeks you can see a range of fruit and vegetables growing from peas to pomegranates.

See if you can spot some of these:

Enjoy looking, but please don’t pick or eat our crops. We want all our visitors to be able to see how they grow.

Also looking spectacular we have Agapanthus blooming in the African garden bed by the Horniman Drive entrance and along the London Road railings along the front of the museum.

Their stunning blue colour makes quite an impact as you approach the museum.

There are a whole host of activities for all ages in the gardens too this summer including Pond Dipping, Exploring Nature and art and craft activities for kids and concerts, film screenings and Late events for the grown-ups. Enjoy!

Brazilian Capoeira at the Bandstand

This Summer we are celebrating Latin America through our Fiesta Latina programme. One of the first activities to do so is a Capoeira Workshop on Wednesday 31 July.

Capoeira originated in Brazil and is a combination of African and South American movement styles. It is a kind of martial art form that is sometimes called a game. In fact, people who practice Capoeira often call it 'playing' as really it is a demonstration of skill. Impact is avoided completely – a sign of being very skilful!

There is often a lot of music and singing as accompaniment. You can see an example of the main instrument, a berimbau, in our Music Gallery. It will be behind you if you are sitting at the furthest sound table.

Our very experienced capoeiristas will be giving you the chance to learn some traditional moves as well as showing off some of their own amazing leg sweeps and powerful lifts. This is a really great chance to try out a safe and physical art form that has spread all over the world from South America.

Why not come and play Capoeira with us in our beautiful gardens? The performance and workshop will be held at 1.30pm and again at 3.15pm on Wednesday 31 July - it's free, so just drop in at the Bandstand.

Florilegium Perform Bolivian Baroque at the Horniman

Next week the Horniman welcomes one of Britain's most outstanding period instrument ensembles for a performance in our Victorian Conservatory.

Florilegium, directed by Ashley Solomon, have given regular performances in some of the world’s most prestigious venues. They have a reputation for stylish and exciting interpretations, from intimate chamber to orchestral and choral repertoire.

  • Florilegium  , Photo by Amit Lennon
    , Photo by Amit Lennon

Since 2002 Ashley Solomon and Florilegium have been involved in promoting a unique archive of music from the Jesuit Mission churches in Bolivia. Each mission collected music for its worship, including masses and motets as well as instrumental and keyboard compositions.

The largest manuscript collection, in Concepcion, had 5,500 manuscripts. Some of this music was written in (and brought from) Europe, but mainly it comprised anonymous compositions, written by the local peoples.

The group's concert on the Horniman will feature a selection of this music, as part of our Latin-themed Summer Season.

Ashley Solomon will be playing the flute and recorder, Jean Paterson and Magdalena Loth-Hill play violinsJennifer Morsches plays the cello, and Terence Charlston the harpsichord.

To hear some of the music Florilegium will be playing at the Horniman, watch the video below or find out more about the Bolivian Baroque project on their website.

Be sure to book your tickets for next week's Florilegium Concert online.

Food & Feasting Across the Generations

Back in April we held an intergenerational event exploring one of our Collections People Stories themes, Food and Feasting, in partnership with The Children’s Society Greenwich Intergenerational and Community Cohesion Project.

We have been working in partnership with this excellent project for a number of years, and wanted to host an event to raise its profile, while doing some intergenerational work on the theme of food and feasting.

Before the event we had a fun session at the museum to explore the theme. We looked at food-related objects and had some good discussions. We then sat down together to eat a hot lunch and carry on food-based conversations.

The event day was on 3 April and went down really well! Visitors enjoyed being encouraged by participants and artist Caitlin Howell to add to a huge rangoli made from spices, lentil and vegetables. It was great to see Steph, Nasra and Leoni chatting with members of the public.

  • Food and Feasting Across the Generations, Starting to make the rangoli
    Starting to make the rangoli

Watch the time-lapse film Caitlin made of the Rangoli:

Other members of the project cooked food for visitors to try.

  • Food and Feasting Across the Generations, Tasting Tamarind
    Tasting Tamarind
  • Food and Feasting Across the Generations, Tasting table
    Tasting table

Monturayo made pap, fried yam, tamarind and delicious bean fritters. Georgina and Dorreen ran an object handling table (and persuaded people to try some bitter kola nut!). Muriel, Elle and Laura taught families how to make non-cook sweets.

A huge thanks to everyone from the Intergenerational Project for all their hard work.

Lewisham Young Carers Visit

The Lewisham Young Carers service is based just down the road from the museum in Forest Hill. They support young people who live in a family where someone is affected by a long-term illness or disability.

Over Easter holiday we had the 8-11 year olds and 12-16 year olds groups visit for workshops at the Museum.

As an introduction to the museum, members of the group selected an object from the Handling Collection that they felt represented themselves and then wrote a label for it. This activity is always a lovely way to find out things about each other and for individuals to think about what the things they are important to them.

On the final two days, we looked at some charms from the Lovett Collection.  The Horniman has hundred of Lovett charms from all around the world, and they are a great way of exploring our upcoming Collections People Stories theme, Health and Healing.

Using magnifying glasses we looked closely at the charms and tried to figure out what was on them and helped each other figure out what some things might mean.

This Greek silver amulet case doesn’t have much information about it but as a group we decided the figure must be St George. If you open it up, there is a dried plant – perhaps a herb or a remedy?

Scott selected one to look at that was a small horse-shoe charm with 1917 written on the back, and the word LOOS on the front. Victor got into looking at a blue glass ‘evil-eye’ charm and the small bubbles formed inside the glass when it was made. Chantelle selected a tiny charm with the number 13 on it – which she considers lucky.

We had some brilliant conversations about the charms – can you make your own luck? Do wishes come true? Should you be scared to break a lucky ritual that you have always done? What does religion have to do with luck? How can something become lucky? Which way up should you put a horse-shoe and why?

As a group we also discussed our own lucky charms that we carry around. Click on the images below to see some up close.

  • Lewisham Young Carers Visit, Scott's Charms
    Scott's Charms
  • Lewisham Young Carers Visit, Naomi's charm
    Naomi's charm
  • Lewisham Young Carers Visit, Qianna's charm
    Qianna's charm
  • Lewisham Young Carers Visit, Chantelle's charms
    Chantelle's charms

Thanks to all the young carers for making this a fantastic and fascinating event!

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