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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:

Could a museum use WhatsApp?

Here at the Horniman, we're always thinking of new ways to get people interested and excited by our collections.

Once upon a time, we did this through lectures and demonstrations but nowadays we also use lots of digital and online tools like Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr.

One of the most talked about smart phone apps lately is WhatsApp, mainly as it has recently been bought by Facebook.

I have been thinking about how museums like us could use WhatsApp, and had an idea about messaging people with personal recommendations for their visit - a bit like a personal shopping service for a museum collection.

To test out the idea, I turned to It's Nice That who were doing a "Power Hour" (ie. helping people out with their ideas and projects in their lunch hour).

So on Wednesday, Anna Rob and Sam helped try out the idea. I asked them what they are interested in and sent them photos and info on our collections.


They wrote a little about it here.

It was certainly a good test. I learnt that:

  • Having three WhatsApp chats at the same time is tricky!
  • Typing and sending quickly on a phone is also hard work!

It was great seeing them get interested in the collections so there is some potential here.

I don't know yet what it will become, and there are lots of questions raised about making it sustainable, safe and manageable, but it feels like something worth exploring.

Watch this space!

#MuseumWeek: Get Involved

Last week we announced that the Horniman is taking part in the first ever #MuseumWeek. Organised by Twitter UK, the project aims to gather hundreds of museums across the UK and Europe together to celebrate how Twitter can help them connect people with art, culture, history and science in new ways.

For one week, starting on Monday 24 March, hundreds of museums will take to Twitter and share their stories using the project's daily hashtags as inspiration. Here's what we have planned at the Horniman:

Monday - #DayInTheLife

We're aiming to give our followers a look into the daily lives of as many museums departments as possible. Join us as we pop our heads into offices and join Horniman staff on the front lines. You can even take to tweeting yourself and let us now which parts of museum life you'd like to see.

Tuesday - #MuseumMastermind

It's time to swot up on your Horniman trivia as we pose quizzes and questions about our history and collection. We've also got a surprise up our sleeve so be prepared for a challenge.

Wednesday - #MuseumMemories

Join us to take a trip down memory lane as staff and visitors alike share their earliest memories of the Horniman. Have you been visiting since you were small or are we a recent discovery - we'd love to hear what's stuck in your mind.

Thursday - #BehindTheArt

This is a day to celebrate what goes on behind the scenes to keep our collections safe and get them out on display for the public to see. We'll be sharing all the hard work our staff do to make this happen.

Friday - #AskTheCurator

Ever wanted to know exactly what's inside the Walrus? How to tell the difference betwen a harpsichord and a clavichord? Or what it takes to care for our adorable alpacas? We have experts in areas all across the Horniman standing by to answer your questions.

Saturday - #MuseumSelfies

The museum theme of the moment is back, with a day dedicated to sharing your selfies taken in museums. The best kind, of course, being one with a walrus - why not use this weekend to snap a pic with our most famous resident? Make sure to include the #selfiewiththewalrus hashtag when you share it and it might even make it to our Pinterest board.

Sunday - #GetCreative

And finally, Sunday is a day to be inspired by our collections. We want to hear from you what your more unusual Horniman highlights are (after all, it's not all about the Walrus). What are your 'must-sees' for a visit and what would you include on a treasure trail around the Museum?

You can track the project using the #MuseumWeek hashtag or follow our account to see what we're sharing.

We'd love you to get involved and join the conversation: remember, if you're tweeting about Museums next week, don't forget to include the #MuseumWeek hashtag.

Museum Documentation

Documentation Manager Rupert introduces us to #MuseumDocumentation and the important role it plays at the Horniman.

Documentation is one of the less visible aspects of what we do at the Horniman.

In museums, 'documentation' has quite a specific meaning: looking after the information about our objects (some of which finds its way online), and making sure that we can account properly for them – being able to say what we own and where it is, and making sure that nothing happens to the collections without being properly considered and authorised.

Without that information, our objects are effectively meaningless: we need to know what they are, where they came from and when, how they're used, who made them, and so on, before we can understand them.

So documentation is fundamental to everything we do, but few people realise how vital it is and how much of it goes on behind the scenes (for example, large parts of our projects Collections People Stories and Bioblitz are about finding out and recording more about the objects).

This was brought home to me before Christmas, on a visit to the National Maritime Museum, where I saw a collecting box asking people to choose to contribute either to education or to conservation work – but not to documentation, which so often seems to be invisible.

  • Collections Assistant Laura Cronin at work reconciling one of our mummies with its paperwork, Photo by Helen Merrett
    , Photo by Helen Merrett

So to try and raise its profile, I've encouraged my fellow documentalists (yes, that is what we seem to call ourselves) to tweet about they're doing, and why it's important, using the hashtag #MuseumDocumentation:

Tweets about "#MuseumDocumentation"

I also started a thread in the Collections Management group on LinkedIn, asking for people's suggestions for bite-sized definitions of why documentation is important. The discussion showed that opinion was divided between those of us who, like me, think we should try and raise the profile of documentation, and those who think we should just focus on the end results.

I’d be interested to hear what you think:

  • Would you be interested in hearing more about the documentation work we do, and why we do it?
  • Would you like to find out about our documentation work during activities like visits to our stores or exhibitions?
  • And of course, would you put money in the slot marked ‘documentation’ in a museum collecting box?

Let us know your answers in the comments or on Twitter with the hashtag #MuseumDocumentation.

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.


We've been using Tumblr to collect photographs from museums around the world.

After having so much fun using Tumblr for our Collections Review blog, we decided we wanted to try something new. Using the automated social media service IFTTT, we programmed a recipe to post Instagram photos tagged #museum to post to our new Tumblr blog, Museumpics.

We've also been topping up the Instagram shots with a few reblogs from Tumblr.

There have been some fantastic results! We've loved scrolling through and seeing the huge variety of museums, collections, and what people get up to in them.

You can click on any of the images to see links to the people who originally posted them.

Visit the blog to see the latest batch.

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.

Horniman Halloween Horrors

Last year, on our twitter account, we asked our followers to suggest scary things from our collection. Here are their spooky suggestions:


Certainly a strange looking creature, with what looks like the head of a monkey and tail of a fish, our merman is one of our scariest - although it's actually not as scary as it looks.

Dog's Heads

Maybe they were once someone's much loved pets, but now these dogs' heads are stuffed and perched on a wall. Best not to think about how they got there...

Glass Armonica

This musical instrument makes a very spooky sound, a kind of eerie wailing.


Some followers said they found our wonderful walrus scary. We disagree - our walrus isn't spooky in the least! 
Try though he might...! 
  • Our Walrus trying to be spooky..., Walrus under dust sheets during renovations
    Walrus under dust sheets during renovations
What do you think? If you've seen something scary here, you could find it online and tag it as scary - or see what our visitors have found scary or spooky.

Say hello to our new website

We're very excited to show you our new website, which has been some months in the making. We've given the site an exciting, colourful new look, and there are a number of features on the site which we hope you will enjoy .

Events and exhibitions

We have a new way of displaying information about our many exhibitions and events, including a calendar. We will also feature much more photography and artworks relating to our exhibitions. 


You can now search and browse our world-class collections, to find information about our objects. We have approximately 350,000 objects in our collections. To begin with, the website contains information for around 500 objects - and we have plans to add many more.
Also, we're excited about tagging - this is where we ask for your help to describe our objects in your own words. If, for example, you think our walrus is amazing, scary or wow, you can tag it as such. Or you could tag with your name so you can find your favourites again.


Also new is this blog - we'll bring you all our news, and also behind-the-scenes features and stories. Look out too for "A few of my favourite things" in which our staff tell you about their favourite objects in the museum. 

Learning packs 

For schools and teachers, we have a new way of finding our wonderful schools resources.

We'll be adding new features to the site regularly, so do check back to find out more. Let us know what you think of the new site and what else you'd like to see.
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