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A Calm Visit to the Horniman

Want to find a quite and peaceful spot in our Museum? Engage Volunteer, Anahita Harding, has just the ticket. Here, she tells us her favourite calm spots and the best times to visit them. 

'Sometimes the Museum can feel quite busy and hectic but for those in the know, there are some places that are a bit quieter where you can get find some peace.

The Gardens are a lovely place to go when a quiet spot is needed but on a rainy day this isn’t always ideal. If you ever need a quiet spot to think and be calm, here are some indoor spaces I like to go to during my breaks.

Nature Base

If you want to see the harvest mice, come to the Nature Base in the morning, as this is the best time to see them running and climbing! The harvest mice are crepuscular, which means that they are most active in the mornings and in the evenings.

The quietest time tends to be in the morning when the Museum has just opened but the Nature Base can get busy during other times of the day.

  • A calm visit to the Horniman, The harvest mice in the Nature Base are best seen in the morning.
    The harvest mice in the Nature Base are best seen in the morning.

The Natural History Gallery balcony

The Natural History Gallery balcony has a variety of cases with interesting specimens in them. There is also a nice space here to read stories and books. A grand clock is near the staircase, and it gently chimes every fifteen minutes. It is called the Apostle Clock and was made during the 19th century in Germany.

Usually, the balcony is very quiet and is a nice space to learn while watching everyone in the gallery below. There is also a good view of the walrus!

  • A calm visit to the Horniman, The apostle clock is on the Natural History Gallery balcony
    The apostle clock is on the Natural History Gallery balcony

The Aquarium

Have you seen the jellyfish in the Aquarium? As you enter the Aquarium you will see a space lit up with a calming blue light, and jellyfish gently moving through their tank. It is lovely to watch them move. Above, you will see a large turtle hanging from the ceiling, can you find it? This is one of my favourite spots, and I hope you enjoy it too.'

  • A calm visit to the Horniman, Watching the jellyfish can be very calming
    Watching the jellyfish can be very calming

The Museum is at it's quietest after 2.30pm on weekdays during term time. 

Share your favourite peaceful spots from the Museum and Gardens with us using #horniman.

Find out more about volunteering at the Horniman

SEND schools programme shortlisted for award

We are very excited that our SEND school programme has been shortlisted for a Museums & Heritage award this year. Here to tell us more about the programme is our Schools Learning Officer, Maria Magill. 

'The question I get asked most is, 'What do you do when you’re not teaching?' Among other things, I get to work on developing our offer for schools, particularly for special educational needs schools. This is one of the most fun aspects of my job.

Our programme of sensory sessions and resources has been shortlisted for a Museums & Heritage Award this year in the category of Education Initiative. The Schools Team couldn’t be more excited!

SEND Sensory Session: A Musical Adventure was developed as part of the legacy of a project with Peoplescape Theatre Company. It is a music session using instruments from Brazil and Nigeria. Pupils help a character ‘Rebecca’ and travel to each country to collect instruments to bring back to the Museum.

Encountering storms on the sea (making wave sounds with our ocean drum), visiting the Brazilian rainforest to be surrounded by butterflies and birds (fluttering tissue paper shapes), and helping to pack a suitcase, as well as learning a Yoruba song of welcome, all form part of this fun session.

SEND Sensory Session: Ancient Egyptian Mummification was developed due to teacher requests. Pupils engage with a sensory story exploring how Mr Horniman collected artefacts from Egypt.

They explore the process of mummification through a range of sensory experiences and objects. They have a go at bandaging, exploring the spices and tools used in mummification (salt, frankincense, cedar oil, beeswax) and handle real Ancient Egyptian objects including a mummy mask.

Alongside the sessions, we’ve worked to make the Museum visit more accessible and inclusive.

There is a social story on our website showing the rooms schools will visit, the things they will see and who they will meet.

We’ve had training to help us incorporate Makaton signing into our sessions and we’ve got software to enable us to create Widgit flashcards as another communication tool.

We’ve had a rethink about how we set up our workshop spaces, changed our tablecloths to make objects easier to see and made cushions available to sit on the floor.

  • SEND schools programme shortlisted for award, Widgit cards
    Widgit cards

Next steps involve creating a new science sensory session linked to our Aquarium and creating a day schedule using Widgit cards which we can share with schools before they visit.

To be shortlisted for a Museum & Heritage Award shows us that we are on the right track, and gives us a renewed burst of enthusiasm to keep improving our offer, making it more accessible for all participants, and to keep improving our professional practice. We’ve just started and we’re excited to keep going!

If you would like to find out more or book a session please contact us at 0208 291 8686 or email schools@horniman.ac.uk.

For more information visit this SEND group page on our website.'

Redstart Arts Discovery Box

Redstart Arts have been running creative projects at the Horniman for several years. Here, artist Cash Aspeek describes their current work on the Discovery Box project.

Over fifteen different community partners are helping the Horniman create new boxes that will be used by visitors and groups for years to come. They are like mini museums, selecting a group of objects that follow a theme chosen by the group.

Redstart Arts are making their own Discovery Box for the Horniman. The objects the group are choosing are from the Horniman’s Handling Collection as well as handmade objects by the Redstarts (artists with learning disabilities) themselves, made especially for the project.

Redstart Arts’ theme is ‘Protection’.

During the past two years, the Redstarts have become familiar with the Horniman's galleries and many of the objects displayed in them. Each Redstart artist has had been allowed the time and space to select objects that they are particularly drawn to and make studies of them. These objects all had the common theme of protection.

All the sessions for this project involve a group activity where we come together to look at and experience a selection of objects.

Each Redstart is able to connect to different areas of the Horniman's collection and show their interest in the form of drawings, photographs, and conversation, which may come about through storytelling and dramatic scenarios.

The artist educators and Horniman staff are excited with the way the project has developed and are captivated by the incredible focus of the individual Redstart artists. 

  • Redstart Arts Discovery Box, Kimberly is making objects inspired by shells that create incredible and varied protective environments for sea creatures. Kimberly is using model magic and milliput.
    Kimberly is making objects inspired by shells that create incredible and varied protective environments for sea creatures. Kimberly is using model magic and milliput.

  • Redstart Arts Discovery Box, Byron is making his own protective mask and talisman pendants working alongside Hannah who is using plaster and modeling materials.
    Byron is making his own protective mask and talisman pendants working alongside Hannah who is using plaster and modeling materials.

  • Redstart Arts Discovery Box, Uduehi enjoys drawing and is particularly interested in how animals protect their families.
    Uduehi enjoys drawing and is particularly interested in how animals protect their families.

  • Redstart Arts Discovery Box, David is embroidering images from the Natural History Gallery onto blue satin discs. This will become a protective cloak to be worn. Each disc has a drawing by all the Redstarts.
    David is embroidering images from the Natural History Gallery onto blue satin discs. This will become a protective cloak to be worn. Each disc has a drawing by all the Redstarts.

  • Redstart Arts Discovery Box, David is embroidering images from the Natural History Gallery onto blue satin discs. This will become a protective cloak to be worn. Each disc has a drawing by all the Redstarts.
    David is embroidering images from the Natural History Gallery onto blue satin discs. This will become a protective cloak to be worn. Each disc has a drawing by all the Redstarts.

  • Redstart Arts Discovery Box, Colleen is designing fabric inspired by African figures. The fabric will be used to protect the Akuaba doll. This doll was given to women to look after as if it were a baby in order to aid their fertility and allow them to be ready for motherhood.
    Colleen is designing fabric inspired by African figures. The fabric will be used to protect the Akuaba doll. This doll was given to women to look after as if it were a baby in order to aid their fertility and allow them to be ready for motherhood.

Volunteering with Community Engagement

What is Community Engagement and why is it important for Museums? Our volunteer Holly investigates. 

Community Engagement is an important part of the work the Horniman does to ensure it is an accessible and inclusive place for all. So when there was a space for a volunteer on the Community Engagement training day, I jumped at the chance to attend.

The day is designed to equip community group leaders with the skills required to confidently lead visits to the museum and run projects or activities linked to the collection. It was useful to hear the group leaders explain what they would need to run a successful session, as well as seeing how the Horniman is able to shape its services to accommodate the needs of community groups. This flexibility is essential; each community group has differing requirements, and fixed offerings typically won’t work for every group.

During the training day we had to think on our feet and test our creativity. In the Hands on Base we explored the large collection of objects available for visitors to handle. In the galleries we designed our own themed tour of the museum, including potential activities, for a community group visit. These activities encouraged us to identify questions and opinions about objects, make connections between objects, and create our own journey through the museum.

  • The Stroke Association group explores musical instruments, This community group are exploring talking drums in the Hands on Base.
    This community group are exploring talking drums in the Hands on Base.

As a volunteer, I learnt more about how the museum works and gained an insight into the community groups it partners with. This has increased my confidence as a volunteer, giving me new ideas on how to present the objects in the handling collection and how to engage visitors.

Since completing the training, I’ve volunteered at several Community Engagement sessions and no two sessions are alike. Participating in a costume workshop, making Carnival crowns with the Indoamerican Refugee and Migrant Organisation, was a great excuse to explore my own creativity while volunteering. I quickly realised there’s countless ways to make a Carnival crown, and just as many ways to learn from other people’s creative ingenuity.

  • Volunteering with Community Engagement, Colourful Brazilian crowns made during community group activity sessions were then worn at the Horniman Carnival on 4 September.
    Colourful Brazilian crowns made during community group activity sessions were then worn at the Horniman Carnival on 4 September.

At a Redstart Arts artist-led exhibit, I got to help showcase the participating artists’ work which was inspired by the Horniman’s collection. Seeing the artworks side by side with the objects that inspired them encourages visitors to see both in a different way. It connects people with the collection, making the objects more accessible sources of inspiration - something to interact with and not only see on display. It also helps to show the many ways people experience the museum and engage with the collections.

  • Redstart, This Redstart Arts workshop saw community groups making sculptures inspired by the Horniman collection.
    This Redstart Arts workshop saw community groups making sculptures inspired by the Horniman collection.

While each session is different, there have been a few constants from my experiences with Community Engagement. I’ve met a wide range of people including the community groups, museum staff, local artists and volunteers working with the groups. It’s an enjoyable way to improve my confidence and volunteering ability, and a great insight into how museums can help change people’s lives.

Find out more about volunteering at the Horniman. 

Redstart Arts on display

You may have read the blog that one of our community partners, Redstart Arts, wrote during a recent residency at the museum. well you can now see the sculptures displayed in the Forest Hill Sainsbury’s window. It is only up until the start of July – so go and have a look while you can!

Cash Aspeek, the artist who leads the group, tells us more about the exhibition:

'It was very important for us to be able to showcase our Horniman works at a place that would allow a really wide audience and also become part of the Forest Hill art scene. The window at Sainsbury’s in Forest Hill seemed appropriate – it overlooks the main road in Forest Hill and countless people walk past each day.

We spent a lot of time improving the space, to ensure that the work was displayed professionally. The ‘Redstart Arts’ sign is handwritten on the back wall by one of volunteers, Jez.

While we were installing the display, there was a constant stream of people in the shop and on the street, who were actively interested in the work. It was really exciting and satisfying to know that the exhibition was engaging the local people and that the Redstarts’ work would be seen by so many. Sainsbury’s have kindly agreed that we can use the display for 6 weeks and importantly the display will be up during Learning Disability Awareness Week.'

The Redstart Arts Horniman project

Redstart Arts use a room at the Horniman once a month for a creative workshop. Their artist leader, Cash Aspeek, took part in our Community Worker Training Day and used what she had learnt to devise her own project at the museum for the group. Cash tells us what they have been doing.

The Horniman project was inspired by both natural figures and by ancient pieces of artwork found in the Horniman. Over a period of five sessions the Redstart Arts produced a series of figurative sculptures made from found materials that were neither human nor animal but a hybrid of the two.

My approach is to encourage the Redstarts to explore their own creativity rather than create a series of uniformed work. Thus, each of the works produced reflects the personality of its maker.

The structure of the sessions I run is similar each time. The members greet each other at the beginning by standing in a circle and creating a sign for their name, not Makaton but a sign or action of each individual’s choice. The group then copies the sign. This way of starting energises the group and creates a light environment in which the Redstarts are at ease.

The session then involves brief discussion about the journey they are on, looking at previous work and thinking about the next steps. I use a visual time plan to mark out steps and note opinions.

The starting point for the Horniman project began with the Redstarts immersing themselves into the gallery space. The Redstarts produced observational studies of pieces they found of interest in the galleries and then went on to realise their figurative sculptures through plaster bandage.

The Redstarts then set about exploring textures; they discussed how some animals are covered in fur whilst others have feathers or scales and that humans have skin. The Redstarts were very keen to explore the galleries using the collections as inspiration for the ‘skin’ for their figure.

One Redstart was fascinated by the scales of a Pangolin and so covered his figure in small pieces of grey rubber, each piece overlapped to form a scale like texture. 

Another Redstart covered his figure in compost and then carefully hammered nails into it after he was inspired by a Nkondi figure. 

Furthermore one of the Redstarts rather than covering her figure decided to use a black pen to meticulously cover her figure in drawings, she particularly enjoyed drawing from observation within the gallery.

Each Redstart produced a figure that was very representative of their personalities, likes and dislikes. They enjoyed the freedom of exploration and creativity that they were given. This was poignant for each Redstart, as they seemed extremely proud and happy of the work they produced. 

You can find out more about Redstart Arts on their website.

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