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Building the Extremes Garden

Wes, our  Head of Horticulture, lets us know what went in to creating our new outdoor showcasing exploring plants with some amazing adaptations to extremely arid environments.

The big challenge to build our Extremes Garden was to find suitable plants to display, as they are not the type that can be picked up in your local garden centre, and we needed something especially striking as a centre piece.

Fortunately my old mate David Cooke, manager of Kew Gardens' Temperate House helped us out, and loaned a Giant African Cycad, Encephalartos altenstenii.

Cycads are amazing plants that survived when the dinosaurs inhabited the planet; they actually predate the evolution of flowering plants and produce cones rather than flowers as reproductive structures.

Glasshouse manager Kate Pritchard from Oxford Botanic Gardens also kindly loaned us two lovely Organ Pipe Cactus that have also made a big visual impact on the garden.

Other plants came from Southfields specialist cacti nursery; gold medal winners at Chelsea this year. The amazing Architectural Plants Nursery in Horsham also provided us with a nice selection.

We paid a visit to a private nursery/collection owned by Cacti expert John Pilbeam (Connoisseurs' Cacti) to source the remaining smaller specimens.

After a lot of deliberation we positioned the plants. They were planted in their pots because they are only going to be on display until September (when they will need to be moved inside for the Winter) so it saved disturbing their root balls which cacti in particular don’t appreciate.

We then laid a weed-suppressing membrane around the plants and over the surface of the bed, creating a patchwork between the plants.

We then mulched with 5 bulk bags of decorative stone, to give the display its arid/desert look.

The display only really took the highly skilled Gardens team 2 days to install, and we are very pleased with the results.

Richard Quick from the Horniman to Russell-Cotes

Collections Access Officer Sarah has been renewing the Horniman's connection to Bournemouth's Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum through our Object in Focus loans scheme.

In light of a recent loan to the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum, I can’t help but look through our archive for pictures of our friend Richard Quick.

I work on an Arts Council England funded project called Object in Focus whereby we proactively encourage museums to borrow objects from our stores. One of these objects is a beautiful ceramic shogi (chess) set from Japan.

This object has been part of the Object in Focus project since 2012 and has so far toured to Maidstone Museum, Hastings Museum, Powell-Cotton Museum and Chiddingstone Castle, and lastly to Bournemouth at the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum.

The Horniman Museum is comparable to the Russell-Cotes Museum not only due to our similar collections, but also because of Richard Quick. Quick was resident curator of the Horniman Museum and Gardens from 1891 to 1901. His move to the Horniman coincided with the museum being open to the public, and he oversaw a change in museum practice: the retention of letters and receipts relating to purchases, production of annual reports, and rearrangement and relabelling of numerous displays.

During Quick’s tenure, he also acted as an agent for John Frederick Horniman and between 1897-1899, listed his entire collection in two bound registers including a ‘Geo-Global Survey’ of the ethnographic collection that listed a total of 7,920 objects.  

After leaving the Horniman Museum he worked at Bristol Art Gallery and Museum until 1921, then moved to the Russell-Cotes where he worked until he retired in 1932. It is understood that Quick was handpicked by Sir Merton and Lady Annie Russell-Cotes due to his extensive Japanese knowledge.

Quick was married but his wife died not long after he started working at Russell-Cotes. His daughter, who was a nurse, also lived in the museum. When a visitor died of a heart attack in Gallery One, she tried to save him before the doctor arrived.

Quick gave many lectures both at the Horniman and Russell-Cotes Museums. He was a curator for 43 years and an original member of the Japan Society in London.  

Bookblitz

We've posted a lot about the Bioblitz project, but while the Natural History team have been busy sorting through thousands of specimens, our librarian Helen has been tackling her own review of the Horniman Library's historic books.

  • An 18th century travel journal from the library's historic collection, Photo by Vicky Pearce
    , Photo by Vicky Pearce

The Horniman Museum and Gardens has always had a library, which used to be in the room now taken up by the Hands On Base before it got its own dedicated building.

Librarians have continued to add to the library right up to the present day, focusing on books which have strong connections to the collections - Natural History, Anthropology and Musical Instruments - and to the Horniman itself.

Now, the Horniman Library is regularly used by staff for research purposes, and is open to the public by appointment on Thursdays and Fridays (email enquiry@horniman.ac.uk to arrange a visit). You can also browse the library catalogue online.

  • A 19th century book of handwritten 'recipes', Photo by Vicky Pearce
    , Photo by Vicky Pearce

The library's oldest volumes were donated when the museum was founded, including many by the Horniman family. Some volumes are centuries old, while others tell stories from the 19th and early 20th centuries. It is this historic collection which has been the focus of Helen's 'Bookblitz' for the last year.

  • Frederick Horniman's own bookplate in an early Entomology volume, Photo by Vicky Pearce
    , Photo by Vicky Pearce

The reasons behind carrying out this review are similar to those behind Bioblitz and Collections People Stories. By examining each volume on the shelves closely, Helen is able to establish exactly what we have, and whether anything is particularly special or needs extra attention, either from researchers or our Conservation team.

  • An old volume showing signs of damage from bookworm , Photo by Vicky Pearce
    , Photo by Vicky Pearce

One of the most important tasks is checking that the numbers assigned to each book in the original accession registers and modern catalogue, and those attached to the books themselves all match. Just like in the object collections, these unique numbers allow us to track the book's history and everything we have learnt about it.

  • An original accession register, showing volumes added to the Horniman Library in the 1930s, Photo by Vicky Pearce
    , Photo by Vicky Pearce

With the other collections reviews running alongside, the Bookblitz has offered a fantastic opportunity to make new links with other Horniman collections. We even have some books which tell the story of how our own museum objects were collected.

  • An intriguing title, Photo by Vicky Pearce
    , Photo by Vicky Pearce

Just like Bioblitz and Collections People Stories, people with specialist knowledge have thrown new light on some of the library's collection. Judith MaGee, Special Collections Curator at the Natural History Museum, joined Helen to look over the fantastic Natural History volumes.

  • An early entomology volume complete with stunning illustrations, Photo by Vicky Pearce
    , Photo by Vicky Pearce

We'll be blogging about a few of the discoveries Helen has made when making her way through the library's catalogues, so stay tuned to see more fascinating historical books.

Bookblitz blog posts:

Crocodile Hunting in Central America

Japanese Fairy Tales

Man: His Structure and Physiology

Another Frederick Hornemann

The Oldest Book in the Collection: De Materia Medica

Archive Photos of Horniman Gardens

Our gardens have been open to the public for 117 years today - they were first opened on 1 June 1895. This week, following a major development, they are re-opening.

Our new display gardens explore the links between the plants in our gardens and the collections in our museum, which was our founder Frederick Horniman's vision. He wanted the Museum and Gardens to be a place for “recreation, instruction and enjoyment”.

We hope you enjoy these archive photographs of the Museum and Gardens from the late 19th and early 20th century, and will spend some time enjoying our gardens over the coming summer.

Entrance to Horniman Museum and Gardens, early 20th century

Front of the Horniman Museum in 1896

Horniman water Gardens in 1924.

Dutch Barn on the Bandstand Terrace

Bandstand Terrace around 1903 / 1904

Rear view of the Bandstand from early 20th century

Bandstand and Terrace in 1911

Boating pond with railway in background, early twentieth century



Westwood Park Gate entrance, early 20th century

The Avenue looking south towards London Road, late 19th century



A History of Natural History Curators

Over the past few months, we've been working with members of the University of the Third Age on a project to compile a history of our natural history curators, many of whom we didn't know a lot about. 
 
The participants presented their findings yesterday, to an enthralled audience, who heard a fascinating history of more than 100 years at the Horniman. Listen below to some of the participants speaking about what they found during their research.
 
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