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Online Collections in Close Up

If you’ve been looking at our online collections recently, you might have noticed a 'Zoom' button in the top right of some of the images.

We have added new, larger images to our online collections and, if you press the button, you will be able to zoom in to really see our objects up close.

Once you've opened a zoomable image, you can move closer either by using the buttons at the bottom right, or scrolling with your mouse wheel.

At the moment, about 14,400 of our 23,400 online objects should have at least one zoomable image – and we’ll keep adding more, although processing so many large pictures into the necessary format can take some time.

The pictures really show off the skill of our photographer, Dani Tagen, and how well she's taught our Collections People Stories review teams.

None of them would have claimed to be expert photographers when they started work on the objects 17 months ago. In fact, Dani gave a paper on how she’s trained the review teams at the Association for Historical and Fine Art Photography conference last year, and several other museums were so impressed they have asked her to show them how she does it.

To whet your appetite, here are some examples of the level of detail you can see in the zoomed images:

Instrumental Photoshoots

Preparations are under way for the Horniman's new At Home With Music display to be added to the Music Gallery.

Moving some of the larger keyboard instruments into place offered the perfect opportunity to photograph each object to documentation standards. Horniman photographer Dani set up her studio in the performance space at the back of the music gallery and set to work.

Some instruments, such as this square piano had some special attention from the conservation team to get them looking their best for their photoshoot and new life on display.

Photographs taken for museum documentation purposes have strict quality guidelines. Each shot is examined closely to see it meets standards.

Sometimes getting just the right light in just the right places requires a bit of teamwork (and a large piece of Tyvek).

It's important to make sure the background is completely clear of even the tiniest specks.

Some of these instruments were extremely heavy and required specialist handling to get them in and out of the studio without damage.

It's not just a case of taking one shot; Dani takes multiple frames and later stitches them together to get the most detailed and true-to-life image. It's a lot of hard work, but the end result is a beautiful set of photographs showing each instrument from multiple angles.

Including some close-ups of the details.

And even some shots of the inner-workings.

These images will go into our object and image databases and will be available to anyone wishing to study the instruments in the future, as well as providing a valuable resource to the museum.

At Home With Music will be open from the end of Janurary 2014. Be sure to visit the Music Gallery and see some of these amazing instruments for yourself.

Celebrating Women in Science

Today is Ada Lovelace Day, a celebration of women in the fields of science, technology, engineering and maths. The annual even is named in honour of Ada Lovelace, the first computer programmer, and we'd like to take the chance to introduce you to a pioneering female scientist whose work we hold in the Horniman Collections: Anna Atkins.

  • Anna Atkins in 1861, Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
    , Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Born in 1799, Anna grew up as the daughter of scientist and secretary to The Royal Society. This put her in place to hear about and learn some of the newest scientific developments of the 1800s. She was a keen botanist and scientific illustrator, and when photography began to emerge as a new technique, she was one of the first to put it to good use.

Using an early photographic method known as cyanotyping, Anna began producing photographic plates of British algae, using specimens from her collection. Eventually she completed three volumes, which are now recognised as the first books ever to be published with photographic illustrations.

Anna Atkins is also widely recognised as the first woman ever to create a photograph.

During a recent review of the Horniman's collection of historic books, Librarian Helen uncovered the Horniman's own copy of this important work.

As the volumes were self-published, and the plates each made by hand, each version (and there aren't many left) is slightly different. Ours has a total of 457 plates bound in four books which were originally owned by Frederick Horniman.

We're very proud to have such an important work by a female scientist in our collection. It has inspired Helen and our Aquarium staff to work together to research and discover more about Anna Atkins and her work, which we hope will lead to a future exhibition where we can showcase some of Anna's beautiful images.

A Day in the Life of the CPS Team


Interview with Museum of the Year Photography Finalist

Back in May you might remember us telling you about the Museum of the Year Photography Competition. Today, we are proud to announce that one of the ten finalist photographs is going on display in the Museum.


Visitors were encouraged to enter their photographs inspired by each of the ten Museum of the Year 2013 finalists. This photograph, by Oliver Hine, shows one of the jellyfish from our Aquarium. The judges selected this image to celebrate the Horniman's place as a finalist, as they felt it most creatively captured the spirit of the museum.

Unfortunately, Oliver's photograph didn't win the competition, but it's definitely a winner in our eyes and today it goes on display in the main museum building.

We interviewed Oliver to find out more about his photograph and how it felt to be exhibiting at the Horniman.


How does it feel for your photograph to be selected to represent the Horniman in the final of the competition?
It was fantastic to receive the news that my photo had been selected. The reaction from my friends and family was wonderful and since then I have found new confidence and enjoyment in my photography which I’m really pleased to be able to share with the Horniman, its visitors and supporters.

Your finalist photograph is going to be exhibited in the Horniman Museum. Have you ever had your work exhibited before?
Very recently one of my favourite photos, which won a competition with the photography society at my workplace, has been requested by some friends to display in their homes, but nothing like an exhibition at the Horniman!

How long have you been a photographer?
I’ve always had a camera but I took it up seriously with the purchase of my first DSLR 5 years ago.

What do you get up to when not photographing jellyfish?
This year will feature a lot of wedding planning as I am getting married to my beautiful fiancée Hanna next year! I am a software developer by trade and I have a few pet projects that I work on in my spare time. In terms of other photographic subject matter anything is game!

Are you a regular visitor to the Horniman?
We visited for the first time in April 2013 when I took this photograph.

What made you decide to photograph the Horniman?
I take my camera with me almost everywhere I go so I had it with me when I visited the Horniman. My fiancée Hanna pointed out the competition to me so I spent longer than normal hanging back taking photos whilst we were walking around!

The jellyfish are popular subject for photographers at the Horniman. What made you choose them?
The aesthetic simplicity and beautiful lighting of the jellyfish in their tank immediately drew my eye. I find jellyfish interesting from a scientific respect in that they function without a brain, heart or many other major organs we cannot imagine doing without but I imagine this allows them to have a very peaceful and serene life!

Were they particularly tricky to photograph?
The lighting in the jellyfish tank is particularly good, and the glass was nice and clean so the shot was relatively easy to take.

Did you have any specialist kit to help you get the shot?
Just my DSLR and 50mm prime lens!

How many shot did it take for you to get your finalist photograph?
I took about 8 shots of the jellyfish and chose based on the clean lines and razor sharp focus of the one I eventually entered.

Do you think you’ll be back to shoot more scenes at the Horniman in the future?
There are plenty of interesting exhibits we didn’t even have time to see on our visit, including the music section, so I’m sure I will be back in the future with my camera!


We look forward to welcoming back Oliver and his camera. View more of Oliver's photography on Flickr.

Don't forget you are free to take photographs to non-commerical use anywhere in the museum, so get snapping and don't forget to share the results with us in our Flickr group!


Update: Here's Oliver with his finalist photograph on display in the main museum building.

The Horniman Walrus moves to Margate

The Horniman Walrus has made his way to Margate to feature in the Hayward Touring exhibition Curiosity: Art & The Pleasures of Knowing at Turner Contemporary.

While many of you have been following his progress with our liveblog and on Twitter, Acapmedia have been filming the whole event. They've produced this fantastic timelapse film documenting the Walrus leaving the Natural History Gallery for the first time since 1901. 

The Walrus will be away until September, but until then you can visit the Natural History Gallery and leave a message for him on the Walrus Wall.

Your Photos, Our Favourites

With the Museum of the Year Photography Competition in full swing, we thought we'd gather together some inspirational shots from the Horniman's Flickr group.

These beautiful shots were all shared by our visitors. You can click on any photograph to view it in Flickr.

We'd love your entries in the competition to really capture what the spirt of the Horniman means to you. Perhaps that is a view of your favourite gallery.

The Natural History Gallery, Horniman Museum, London.
The Natural History Gallery by Photogriffo

Or the new life springing up in the gardens.

Purple Haze by Adam Swaine

Or perhaps you like to get your lens a little closer to the collections.

Chortle by Bob MacCallum

Maybe what means the most is seeing your family enjoying their day out.

Henry at the Horniman
Henry at the Horniman by Giles Booth

Whatever you choose as your subject, we hope you can find some photographic inspiration at the Horniman.

Neither jelly nor fish.
Neither jelly nor fish by Owen Llewellyn

You can enter your own Horniman shots to the Museum of the Year Photography Competition for the chance to win an iPad mini and a year's National Art Pass.

Enter by filling in an online form, emailing the Art Fund at photo@artfund.org (make sure to include your name, title of the photography and the name of the museum), or sending it via twitpic @artfund.

The deadline for entres is the 15 May.

Click here to find out more and read full terms and conditions

The Horniman Instagrammed

A few weeks ago we shared our new Tumblr blog, Museumpics: we've loved seeing Instagrammed shots from museums all over the world, so we've started an Instagram account of our own!

Our account is used by staff from across the museum and gardens, so it'll give you a peek into what goes on behind-the-scenes all over the Horniman.

  • Scarlet Macaw, A behind-the-scenes shot from our taxidermy conservators, Photo by Charlotte Ridley
    A behind-the-scenes shot from our taxidermy conservators, Photo by Charlotte Ridley

Lately, we've had plenty of shots from our Entomology Bioblitz, some interesting Conservation projects, and a bit of Pangolin fever!

  • Conservatory Instagrammed, Our conservatory during an afternoon tea event
    Our conservatory during an afternoon tea event

As usual, we'd love you to share your photos from the Horniman with us. You're free to take photographs (without a flash) throughout the galleries and gardens. Remember to tag your shots with #horniman or #hornimanmuseum so we can spot them, and our favourites might even end up on our Pinterest board.

Our Collections People Stories Progress

If you've been following our Tumblr blog, you'll have already seen plenty of fascinating finds the Collections People Stories team have been making in the stores. Sarah, who is working on the project, has offered us an update on how it's going.

At the beginning of the project, we spent a number of long months at the computer looking at the museum’s registers, which detailed objects coming in to the museum from 1897 to 1996. We compared the information in the registers with the object information in our database and created new records for anything that didn’t already exist.

More recently, we've been working in the stores: we take out each object, enter and check the information about it on our database, take a good photograph and pack it away again neatly and safely. 

We check objects for any numbers, input information about what the objects are, what they are made of, where they’re from and any information about the people who donated the objects to the museum.

We then measure each object, check for any inscriptions and check that there is a good description on our database. We then briefly check the object’s condition, take a photograph (having had amazing training from our lovely photographer, Dani), and repack it in its box.

This process will help us to know what we have in the stores, highlight important objects for potential re-display in the future, and improve the objects’ documentation so we will be able to find things more easily.

We’re made up of four people in two full-time teams called Haddon and Quick, named after two former curators at the Horniman. There is also part time sub team called Haddock, a cunning blend of the two.

Team Haddon started by reviewing charms and Quick have started on spoons. We have already come across some amazing and fascinating objects! A highlight for team Haddon was a Lappett-Faced vulture skull wrapped in leather on a cord used as a charm from Nigeria.

  • Vulture Skull Charm, A fascinating find for the Collections People Stories team
    A fascinating find for the Collections People Stories team

Don’t be deceived by the seemingly repetitive appearance of team Quick’s current reviewing topic; there have been spoon highlights too! One of these was a pair of scorpion handled spoons. Sadly, at the moment, there is not much known about them on the database so hopefully we’ll find out more soon!

  • Scorpion Spoon, Perhaps the most interesting spoon find yet
    Perhaps the most interesting spoon find yet

We put up any interesting and aesthetically pleasing finds on the museum’s Tumblr blog (including the aforementioned objects), so do check it out.

Bioblitz on Flickr

Last week, expert reviewer Errol Fuller returned to finish off our Birds Bioblitz by looking at the specimens in the Natural History Gallery.

Bioblitzing Birds

As he and our Keeper of Natural History blitzed the gallery cases, project coordinator Russell was snapping away, and managed to get some beautiful shots.

Bioblitzing Birds

We've uploaded them all to Flickr, along with Russell's photographs from Errol's time in the stores.

Bioblitzing Birds

Take a look at our Bioblitz set for a sneak peek into the stores and the world of @HornimanReviews.

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