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Ten objects, twenty stories to explore in First Time Out

Ten previously hidden objects, weird, wonderful and beautiful by turn, are to go on display in First Time Out, from 6 June until 31 July 2013.

This unique collaboration sees ten museums and galleries each exhibit an artefact from their archives which has never been seen before. But in a twist, ten stories become twenty as artefacts are switched between partnered venues mid-way through the project (on 4 July) with fresh interpretations provided by the new hosts.

From an exquisite Rothschild Meissen dish to a macabre bone guillotine carved by prisoners during the Napoleonic wars, the rarest of Darwin’s publications to the Fool’s bauble prop from a landmark performance of King Lear, the objects are as varied and surprising as the stories they tell.

First Time Out brings out treasures from behind the scenes and moves them between London and the regions, giving each a chance to speak to different audiences and find new meanings. For some, this may be the only time they are ever seen by visitors.

We here at the Horniman Museum and Gardens are twinned with the Royal Shakespeare Company, displaying a ceremonial mask of Dzunuḵ̓wa or "Wild women woman of the woods" from the Northwest coasts of Canada from our collections and a Fool's Bauble, a prop for the Royal Shakespeare Company's 2007 production of King Lear. This display was developed in collaboration with U'mista Cultural Centre, Alert Bay, British Columbia.

The other collaborations and objects on display are:

  • Natural History Museum: Rough-toothed dolphin skull with ink scrimshaw decoration by unknown sailor (mid 19th century)
  • Peterborough Museum: Model bone guillotine made by POWs at Norman Cross prison camp (early 19th century)
  • Science Museum: Set of ten ivory mathematical puzzles in black lacquer box, made in China (19th century)
  • Discovery Museum, Newcastle: First light bulb and light switch designs by Joseph Swan and John H. Holmes (1881 and late 1880s)
  • Wellcome Collection: Carved cigar holder representing the coronation of King Ludwig II of Bavaria in 1864
  • Waddesdon Manor: Oval dish from “New Dulong” pattern service used by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild (late 18th century)