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Nares Hornimani

Artist in residence Joshua Sofaer describes some of the work he has been doing at the Horniman.

‘For the last quarter of 2016, I have been lucky enough to be artist in residence at the Horniman Museum and Gardens.

I have been exploring the Horniman collections as inspiration to create a series of false noses. There are many places to look.

The most obvious is perhaps the Anthropology collection: dance, devil, carnival, and ‘ugly’ masks. Equally, I could turn to the Natural History collection: the spoonbill’s beak, the paleomastodon’s nascent trunk, the nine-banded armadillo’s curled protective shell. Less obvious, but no less inspirational, is the collection of instruments: an orchestral horn false nose, a concertina false nose, of course the nose flute already exists.

I collect false noses. I have hundreds of them. Most are human noses, but I also have witches noses, clown noses, animal noses, and other oddities. I even have a plug nose and a socket nose.

In 2013, I showed a series of 452 self-portraits wearing my false noses at the Wellcome Collection in London.

The thing about this collection is that there is a rapidly decreasing pool of noses to collect. As cosplay becomes more popular and affordable, people are dressing-up more ‘authentically’. The false nose, alas, has probably seen its day.

In an effort to try and add to my own collection, I have started making false noses myself. I have made painted noses, papier maché noses, brass noses, clay noses, cardboard noses, crochet noses, and gold noses. I have recently started a digital Nose Museum on Instagram.

Bang slap in the middle of our faces, the nose is often overlooked. There are odes to beautiful eyes, sonnets on the perfect shape of lips, hair practically has a strand of literature to itself. The nose, however, is often cut off. The nose has a rich narrative potential for the absurd, the comic, the mysterious and at the same time, the entirely knowable. We all have a nose after all. As Dr Seuss reminds us, ‘They grow on every kind of head’.

My personal opinion is that all people can be divided into two categories, those who collect, and those who do not. As a collector myself I am interested in people who collect. Frederick John Horniman (1835-1906) was a collector in the Victorian tradition and on an epic scale. It is, of course, his collection that forms the bedrock of the Horniman collection.

In what used to be the main reception of the Museum, but is now the staff and goods entrance, perched on a pedestal, is a bronze bust of Horniman.

  • Nares Hornimani, The bust of Frederick Horniman, Joshua Sofaer
    The bust of Frederick Horniman, Joshua Sofaer

Nobody seems to know much about it. My hunch is that it was created at the same time as the building, which opened to the public in 1901. It fits too perfectly into its nook to be a later addition. One option is that it is the work of sculptor Frederick William Pomeroy (1856-1924). Pomeroy made a bronze bust of Horniman’s daughter-in-law in 1898, and also a memorial tablet for the Museum. I’m still in pursuit of some solid evidence that confirms or contradicts this theory. (If you know something, get in touch!)

  • Nares Hornimani, A close up of Horniman's nose, Joshua Sofaer
    A close up of Horniman's nose, Joshua Sofaer

In tribute to the man that endowed this fantastic Museum, I want to create a Horniman false nose. And what could be a more fitting material for a tribute, than gold?

After discussing my plans with the conservation team, writing method statements, and making patch tests, I was given the go ahead to make a cast of the nose and moustache area of the bronze bust.

  • Nares Hornimani, Ready for your trim sir?, Joshua Sofaer
    Ready for your trim sir?, Joshua Sofaer

Despite having used the alginate and plaster bandage technique literally hundreds of times to successfully cast faces (most recently on the life mask of another Victorian and Edwardian collector, Henry Wellcome) the process failed. Perhaps I had been over cautious about what materials to use, not wanting to affect the patina of the bronze, but still, I thought it would work. The alginate can sometimes ‘go off’ but the batch seemed fine to me. Anyway, for whatever reason, possibly the cold temperature of the bronze, it wouldn’t release without tearing.

  • Nares Hornimani, A first attempt, Joshua Sofaer
    A first attempt, Joshua Sofaer

I don’t mind admitting that I was pretty embarrassed. After all the efforts to secure the permission and cordon off the area, I felt a bit incompetent. Luckily for me Lindsey Bruce, Exhibitions Officer, and my main point of contact at the Museum, was unperturbed. “We will make it happen,” was her refrain.

It was back to the 4D model shop in Whitechapel to see what other casting agents I could safely use. Armed with a pack of Gedeo Siligum, a silicone based moulding paste, I returned to the Museum to run a test on a bronze scrap. It seemed fine, and Julia Gresson from the conservation team, gave me the go ahead for a second attempt.

Poor Frederick looks a bit miserable having his nose cast.

  • Nares Hornimani, Horniman having his nose cast, Joshua Sofaer
    Horniman having his nose cast, Joshua Sofaer

This time, success! A very good cast that also picked up some dirt, which must have gathered up his nose over the years. Once the cast was off, Julia gave him a good clean.

  • Nares Hornimani, A good cast, Joshua Sofaer
    A good cast, Joshua Sofaer

Taking the mould back to my studio, the next step is to make a wax template. Yes, I know this looks like a school project gone wrong, and yes, that yellow stuff really is Play-Doh. Play-Doh is a great way to build up the sides of a wax mould. It’s cheap, washes off easily, and can form a tight seal.

  • Nares Hornimani, Play-Doh, Joshua Sofaer
    Play-Doh, Joshua Sofaer

After a couple of hours leaving the wax to cool and harden, I stripped back the Play-Doh, and removed the mould. The Horniman nose and moustache wax template stands proudly before me.

  • Nares Hornimani, Horniman's nose template, Joshua Sofaer
    Horniman's nose template, Joshua Sofaer

Now that I had at least one good wax copy, I made a plastic polymer version from the same mould as an insurance.

  • Nares Hornimani, Plastic polymer versions of the nose, Joshua Sofaer
    Plastic polymer versions of the nose, Joshua Sofaer

The next step was to take the template to a metal workshop to have it copper electroformed. Electroforming is a process that builds up a metal surface through electrodeposition. Because wax is not conductive, the area to be electroformed has to be treated chemically with a conductive layer, something like a metal paint. The technical term for the template is ‘mandrel’. The mandrel is then put into an electrolytic bath with a copper solution in it and the copper crystals slowly form around the conductive pattern.

  • Nares Hornimani, The electrolytic bath, Joshua Sofaer
    The electrolytic bath, Joshua Sofaer

A couple of days later I returned to the metal workshop to collect the mandrel. The wax is now covered with a beautiful layer of copper.

  • Nares Hornimani, The copper nose, Joshua Sofaer
    The copper nose, Joshua Sofaer

To get rid of the wax, I simply popped the thing into the oven (130 degrees Celsius for 40 minutes) and let the wax melt out through a wire grid into an aluminium take-away carton.

  • Nares Hornimani, Melting the wax, Joshua Sofaer
    Melting the wax, Joshua Sofaer

Back in the studio, I cut out the shape I wanted, following the natural line of the moustache, punched out the nostrils, and drilled some holes for the thread ties.

  • Nares Hornimani, Cutting out the final shape, Joshua Sofaer
    Cutting out the final shape, Joshua Sofaer

This is the final shape.

  • Nares Hornimani, The final copper nose, Joshua Sofaer
    The final copper nose, Joshua Sofaer

Then it’s back to the metal workshop for the golden jacket. The copper nose-moustache-combo has to be polished and thoroughly cleaned. The first bath is just washing-up liquid and water; the second running water; the third acid, in which you can see the dirt fizz away!

  • Nares Hornimani, The washing-up liquid and water bath, Joshua Sofaer
    The washing-up liquid and water bath, Joshua Sofaer

  • Nares Hornimani, The acid bath, Joshua Sofaer
    The acid bath, Joshua Sofaer

Then Mr Horniman’s nose is plunged into a bath of gold. In fact, it is just gold dust in a solution, and the process of gold plating is similar to that of electroforming, only much quicker. I tried to distract the technician, asking questions for as long as possible, so that an extra thick layer of gold would make its way onto the surface (only joking). In reality, it’s only a few microns deep. If you rough handle gold plate, you will see what’s underneath.

  • Nares Hornimani, Coating the nose, Joshua Sofaer
    Coating the nose, Joshua Sofaer

And there we have it. One gold Horniman nose and moustache.

  • Nares Hornimani, Gold Horniman nose, Joshua Sofaer
    Gold Horniman nose, Joshua Sofaer

However, I’m not sure it’s quite finished yet. I want to give this nose some kind of totem. One that makes it an object worthy of the taxonomic principles that form Horniman’s collection and which that collection helped to create.

There are several species to which Horniman lent his name. This happened when entomologists were invited to survey Horniman’s collections. Although Horniman did go on big world travels later in his life and brought crate loads of stuff back to the UK, most of his early collections were purchased through intermediaries. Someone goes off to Africa and collects a bunch of specimens, brings them back to London, and Horniman buys them at auction, for example. He would then welcome experts to look at what he had amassed. Specimens include a moth, Eusemia hornimani, (now Heraclia hornimani), a true bug, Tesserotoma hornimani, and the ‘Horniman beetle’, Ceratorhina hornimani (now Cyprolais hornimani), from Cameroon, described by naturalist and explorer Henry Walter Bates in 1877.

  • Nares Hornimani, Species to which Horniman gave his name, Joshua Sofaer
    Species to which Horniman gave his name, Joshua Sofaer

Perhaps the most beautiful species named after Horniman is the ‘Horniman Swallowtail’, Papilio hornimani, known only from the northern forests of Tanzania and the southern hills of Kenya. As Jo Hatton, Keeper of Natural explained to me, it was identified by Victorian entomologist W L Distant in 1879, when he was looking through Horniman’s vast collection of butterflies.

  • Nares Hornimani, This is the original specimen that Distant 'discovered', Joshua Sofaer
    This is the original specimen that Distant 'discovered', Joshua Sofaer

As an aside, if you’ve ever wondered how all those Victorian insects were pinned at just the right height, Jo showed me the entomologist’s ‘Pinning Stage’, a metal block that is used to set the specimens and their labels at a consistent height on the mounting pin. You pin the specimen, pick which height you want, and push the pin into the stage. By using the same hole each time, the specimens will always be at the same height.

  • Nares Hornimani, Pinning stage, Joshua Sofaer
    Pinning stage, Joshua Sofaer

Here is the defining Papilio hornimani on its original pin, with two labels beneath the butterfly.

  • Nares Hornimani, Papilio hornimani, Joshua Sofaer
    Papilio hornimani, Joshua Sofaer

It is almost always the open wings of the butterfly that we see pinned up, because they are traditionally seen as the most pretty, the reverse side, which is, I suppose, more commonly seen in nature as the butterfly sits on vegetation, have their own muted beauty. The Papilio hornimani is made up of soft dusty browns, greys and creams.

  • Nares Hornimani, Papilio hornimani, Joshua Sofaer
    Papilio hornimani, Joshua Sofaer

As you might expect, over the years, the Horniman Museum has acquired many examples of its lepidopterous namesake.

  • Nares Hornimani, Papilio hornimani, Joshua Sofaer
    Papilio hornimani, Joshua Sofaer

Where does all this fit into Horniman’s gold nose? Well, I’m thinking of giving him a Swallowtail nose ring, in the spirit of anthropology. I have drawn out the shape and will soon laser cut a piece of 0.5mm steel, which I will then have plated in gold, to match the nose.

  • Nares Hornimani, Drawing of a Swallowtail, Joshua Sofaer
    Drawing of a Swallowtail, Joshua Sofaer

Horniman fell in love with Japan (as in fact, have I) and so I have ordered a length of ‘kiki himo’ (literally 'gathered threads'), 100% silk braid made by craftsmen in Uji, Kyoto, which is being sent over from Japan, as the string to tie on the nose.

Soon I will be able to reveal Nares hornimani. Watch this space.’

Back to books!

One of our Volunteers, Chiara, tells us about her experience in the Horniman Library.

‘I’ve been working as a Librarian in a public library for ten years, back in Italy.

When I moved to London, I lost contact with what had meant so much to me: dealing with the public (especially kids, since I was mostly working in the library’s children section) handling books everyday (the smell of paper...and dust! How wonderful!) and being in daily touch with local communities. At the beginning of my time in London, I felt a little bit lost.

So when I had the opportunity to join the taster session for Volunteers at the Horniman, I was very excited. Somehow I felt I could be again part of something special.

  • Back to Books!, Discovering books in the Horniman Library
    Discovering books in the Horniman Library

I volunteered with Engage for some months and this reminded me of the brilliant curiosity of children. I also took part in the Half Term activities and I could breathe again the happy atmosphere of families playing and learning together. But there was still something missing for me.

Anytime I could, I started sneaking into the Library to help Helen, the librarian, mending the children’s books. When a volunteering role for a library project arose, I couldn’t resist applying. Then the magic happened, I was working again in a library in the reclassification project!

Now, anytime I go to the shelf, pick a book, browse through it and discuss with Helen the most suitable place for visitors to find it, I feel the ‘librarian thrill’ again.

When I handle the ancient books of the special collection, touching them very gently to respect their age and fragility, I feel again as if I was in one of the ancient libraries I used to attend in Rome.

  • Back to Books!, Examining books in the Horniman Library
    Examining books in the Horniman Library

I feel a little bit homesick, but also home again, because if home is where your heart is...well, my heart has always been beating for books.

I have had experience of various different volunteering roles at the Horniman, having also spent some weeks in administration. It has been amazing to experience different and sometimes surprising opportunities, but in the end I’m so very glad that this way took me back to books.

Find out more about volunteering at the Horniman.

A day in the life of… the Horniman Volunteering Team

The 5 November is International Volunteer Managers Day and to mark it, our Volunteer Managers are here to tell you a little bit about what they do.

The Horniman currently has over 140 volunteers and students who bring huge amounts of enthusiasm, experience and unique perspectives to their roles.

The Volunteer Team help us achieve many amazing things whilst making new friends, learning new skills and having fun along the way. The team is really diverse and includes people of all ages, backgrounds and interests. They volunteer all over the Museum from the Gardens to the curatorial departments to supporting visitors within the galleries.

It is the job of our Volunteer Managers to make sure that the Volunteer team is happy and safe, feels valued and respected and is fully supported to complete and enjoy their roles. Let's introduce you to our Managers...

Rhiannon

Hello, my name is Rhiannon and I am the Volunteering Manager. I have been at the Horniman for nearly two years and loved every minute of it! I have the wonderful job of working with colleagues across the Museum to identify new ways to involve volunteers, support them to work with volunteers, and shout out about all their wonderful achievements. This year alone we have celebrated many awards won by the team to recognise their hard work and commitment, they know who they are, but as far as we are concerned the entire team are winners in our eyes.

  • Rhiannon, Rhiannon dressed up at the Horniman Carnival this summer.
    Rhiannon dressed up at the Horniman Carnival this summer.

Kate

Hi, I’m Kate. I’ve been the Volunteering and Engagement Coordinator here for ten months. I was an Engage Volunteer myself between 2012 and 2014 whilst I was teaching and now manage the Engage programme – it’s amazing to see the other side of volunteering at the Horniman. I also support departmental volunteers, manage our student placement programme and facilitate trips and training for the team. I also do my best to spread the word about the incredible skills and knowledge of our volunteer team through regular blog posts on the website.

  • Kate, Kate, back right, on a trip with the Volunteer Team.
    Kate, back right, on a trip with the Volunteer Team.

Beth

I’m Beth, the Youth Engagement and Volunteering Coordinator. One of the main things I do is run the Youth Panel who meet every Thursday to plan events, give consultations and eat an enormous amount of pizza. My average day is pretty varied but usually involves a strong coffee, chatting to teenagers who need some support, lots of meetings, coming up with creative plans to get young people involved with the Museum, and finding ways to make the museum a useful, brilliant place for young people to be. We’re working on ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ at the moment – an amazing live music event for young people, by young people.

  • Beth, Beth and Volunteer Scott pose with their LVMA award certificates.
    Beth and Volunteer Scott pose with their LVMA award certificates.

We have many more colleagues not represented here that provide invaluable support to our volunteers and students, and our heartfelt thanks goes to them. We couldn’t do it alone.

We hope this has given you a bit of insight into what we do at the Horniman. We are always looking for more volunteers, so why not give it a go!

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. 

Dinosaurs, crocodiles and sharks – oh my!

Our new Deputy Keeper of Natural History Emma-Louise Nicholls is obsessed with “big, toothy predators.” We spoke to her to find out how her obsession started and what she has discovered along the way…

What first got you interested in Natural History?

I have been fascinated with fossils since I was about five. My Uncle is really into science fiction and monster movies and we watched them together when I was growing up, so my love of dinosaurs and other prehistoric beasties was probably originally his influence. But it was something I was serious about from a young age. I grew up in a small village called Oving and set up the Oving Dinosaur Museum in my bedroom. I charged my family 20p per person to come in and anyone who came to the house was obliged to visit the Museum.

When I was about ten, I sent an Ammonite I had found to Tring Museum for identification and when they wrote back the envelope was addressed to ‘The Oving Dinosaur Museum, C/O Emma Nicholls’. That’s proof it was a real museum.

How did you get started in your field?

I started with an MSci in Geology at the University of Birmingham, as in my day, that was the degree with the most palaeontology in it. My Masters’ dissertation focused on sharks, which I thought was fantastic. Next I pursued an MSc in Palaeobiology at the University of Bristol studying fossil and modern crocodilians. Basically, I love big, toothy predators.

After that I embarked on a Palaeobiology PhD at University College London looking at 'Patterns in the Palaeoecology of Modern and Cretaceous Chondrichthyan Faunas'.

Urm…

Essentially, I looked at patterns in cohabiting groups of sharks and rays.

It’s very hard to study prehistoric sharks and rays as their skeleton is completely cartilaginous meaning it doesn’t fossilise well, annoyingly, so most often palaeontologists only find their teeth. For my PhD I dug up and identified over 14,000 fossil teeth. Along with every known modern shark and ray, the fossil species were segregated into groups based on tooth type and predation technique, which was a novel approach in shark and ray ecological studies.

I then searched for patterns in cohabiting groups and not only confirmed that patterns do exist, but the results also showed that these patterns have remained constant over millions of years even when species within groups have gone extinct. This is something that no one had done before and I was really pleased with myself!

What bought you to the Horniman Museum and Gardens?

With a background like mine you can either go into academia or work in a museum, but it was an easy decision for me as I have wanted to work in a museum since the dawn of (my) time! While I was doing my various degrees I was always volunteering at at least one museum. I worked at museums such as Lapworth Museum of Geology, Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery, and the Natural History Museum.

I’ve also worked abroad. I had the opportunity to work on a shark exhibition at the Florida Museum of Natural History in the States, and was a shark scientist on a field trip in Kuwait with the Shark Conservation Society. Both were absolutely fantastic.

In my professional life, I spent three years at the Grant Museum of Zoology as Curatorial Assistant before going on to the British Museum where I was Curator of Science and Nature for a brand new museum being built in the UAE called Zayed National Museum. I was responsible for all natural sciences content of the Museum, and was Lead Curator for three of the eight galleries. Building a brand new museum is an incredible opportunity and a curator’s dream!

However, when the Deputy Keeper of Natural History post opened up at the Horniman I jumped at the chance as it’s a museum I have always wanted to work at.

What are you looking forward to doing at the Horniman?

The job, the Museum and the collections are incredible.

I am working on collating all of our shark material across the different departments. It isn’t just palaeontology and the Natural History collections that have shark and ray specimens here, the Aquarium has some live ones and the Anthropology collections have material too, such a sword lined with shark teeth. Ouch.

I will be going through the Bennett collection, which is around 175,000 fossil specimens. The information we have about the collection has been developed by a few different sources over the years so I will have to do some Sherlock Holmes-style thinking to piece it all together and get it accessioned so that it can become available publicly.

I love coming across specimens in the collections that make me go WOW. Specimens of species that have a special meaning for me, such as the Triceratops rib I found in the Study Collection Centre, make me go wide-eyed and waggy-tailed. Ankylosaurus is my favourite dinosaur but Triceratops is a special dinosaur from my childhood.

In the future I would like to publish on the collections and become a leading authority in the currently poorly known Bennett and Wyatt fossil collections. I plan to use the Museum’s collections combined with social media to raise the public profile of sharks and make everyone love them.

Secretly I also dream of discovering a new species in the historic collections. Very rare… but it has happened!

Thanks Emma! You can follow Emma on Twitter @ColPercyFawcett.

Celebrating Volunteer’s Week 2016 at the Horniman

This year, Volunteers’ Week was actually 12 days long, so we had extra time to celebrate all the amazing things our volunteers do!

We organised lots of exciting events for our volunteers: a tour of the Gardens with our Head of Horticulture, Wes; time in the Animal Walk with our Animal Walk team, Lara and Jo; a tour of our Study Collections Centre with Natasha; discussions about some interesting objects in our stores with Curator, Tom and not forgetting our Celebration Drinks Reception.

Our volunteers also wrote a wonderful range of blog posts – something that’s been so successful that we’d like to make it a permanent monthly fixture. They offer a brilliant insight into how both volunteers and our visitors engage with the museum and are excellent at showing the world what our volunteering team is all about.

Over the last year financial year, 272 volunteers have been involved with the Horniman Museum and Gardens – that’s 15,166 hours of interaction with our visitors and support for our work! Quite rightly, we are incredibly proud of these numbers and of our volunteer team more generally.

Our Head of Learning, Georgina Pope, said: 'As a Learning team, we are constantly thinking about the best ways to create happy and inspiring experiences for our visitors and project participants. Your support as volunteers is invaluable in enabling this - as facilitators on gallery, as programmers, supporting family or community engagement, on evaluation projects, as people who can influence our thinking, and in a myriad other ways. We are both proud and grateful that you are involved in the life of the museum, which simply wouldn’t be the same place without you.'

Our Volunteers make the Horniman the extraordinary, magical and inspiring place that we all know and love – thank you to all of our volunteers for their support, hard work and dedication. Here’s to another fantastic year together!

What does volunteering mean to Michael?

Our volunteers are a creative bunch!

One of our Engage Volunteers Michael has written this poem on what being a Horniman Volunteer means to him for Volunteers Week:

 

What does being a Horniman volunteer mean?

Being asked ten times a day (at least) “Where is the queen?”

 

Our beloved bees aren’t the only ones that questions are asked about.

“What’s in here?” “Harvest Mice,” we say, “But they haven’t yet come out.”

 

There’s our faithful stuffed fox, the Nature Base star, whom children love to hug,

And the microscope to see up close a beetle, wasp or bug.

 

For exercise, there’s paper to be picked up off the floor,

And it’s always time to sharpen those darned pencils just once more.

 

Quiet times, busy times, Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall,

Ask any volunteer, they’ll tell you - Half-term’s the worst of all.

                  

There’s school groups, art groups, visitors young and old.

From the latter, many Horniman memories of yesteryear I’ve been told.

 

Friendly staff and visitors, a pleasant working atmosphere,

Are partly the reason I continue on, gladly, year by year.

 

That, and the friendship of the other volunteers, all trying hard to please,

And the reward of helping children learn-about nature and the wonderful bees!

 

Michael Viner, 2016

 

The Artquest research residency

Please note, applications for this residency are now closed.

Artquest in partnership with the Horniman are offering a research residency for one London based artist.

The award includes:

  • £3000 to engage with the work and collections of the museum
  • £850 towards a public facing event showcasing the thinking and research undertaken during the residency
  • Privileged access to museum objects and curators

We are particularly interested in developing relationships with artists who want to engage with people as well as collections. Applicants should consider in particular how their work might engage visitors with the museum’s displayed collection and encourage participation with these displays. Please note the African Worlds gallery and the Centenary gallery will both close in September 2016 for redevelopment until 2018 however this does not mean artists cannot engage with the anthropology collection.

Please note, that this is not a studio residency and applicants are expected to have their own studio / workspace to complete any work.

Find out if you are eligible for the residency and apply on Artquest by 10am on Monday 1 August 2016.

Five Things I’ve Learned Through Volunteering

For Volunteers Week this year, one of our Engage Volunteers, Catherine Miller, tells us her highlights of being an Engage Volunteer and why she keeps coming back to the Horniman: 

It’s been four months since I joined the small group huddled outside the staff entrance to the Horniman, waiting to be let in from the February cold to do our first Engage training session. Since then, I’ve manned the handling trolley, handed out colourful cloaks for Pitchy Patchy and gazed at bees on most Saturdays. It’s not exactly the usual way to spend a weekend - so why do I give up my time? Well, every week on Engage is different, and I’ve learned a lot about the Horniman, its weird and wonderful exhibits and volunteering in general. Here are my top five lessons:

1. Volunteers come from all walks of life. It’s fantastic to work alongside people from all over the world (India, Italy and New Zealand to name but a few) and all sorts of day-jobs. Everyone brings their own unique perspective and it’s also fascinating to find out how and why people got involved in the museum. For some, it’s a chance to sample a heritage career, and for others, it’s a rewarding hobby. Working as part of the Engage team is a great chance to meet new and diverse people.

2. Learning comes in many forms. As a teacher, I know how easy it is to get wrapped up in ‘levels of progress’ and exam results, but at the Horniman we see all sorts of people learning in many different ways - from feeling a snake skin for the first time to watching a jellyfish dance around its tank. There’s a moment when a visitor’s eyes light up and you know they’re intrigued by something. That spark makes our work worth it.

3. Each family is unique. During the week I work with teenagers, so interacting with younger children and families has been a fun experience for me. Something that has surprised me is how individual even the smallest visitors can be. Some are shy and wide-eyed, clinging on to their adult’s leg until someone demonstrates that it’s perfectly safe to touch the ostrich egg... others are brimming with knowledge and enthusiasm... and others just want to run around! Then there are the super stylish toddlers in catwalk-ready tutus and dinosaur onesies. Not that I’m jealous…

4. Taxidermy is a talking point - and surprisingly relevant even in today’s world. There’s something quite powerful in being able to view a once-living animal, not just in a virtual space or as a photo but in three dimensions in front of you. Being able to touch an example is even better, hence the delighted reactions to our Chicken Turtle. Taxidermied animals have also sparked off some interesting conversations about life and death with younger visitors, for whom the concept of preserving a body can raise many questions.

5. Bees are endlessly fascinating. I've learned lots of bits and bobs about all the objects on the handling trolley and some of the museum's other exhibits, but I have to say the bees are one of my favourite things. I can stand and stare at the Horniman’s hive for hours, watching the workers bustle to and fro or trying to spot the elusive queen. It was amazing to see the change in their behaviour from winter to spring as the group woke up from their slumber and began to collect pollen in earnest. I’ve been inspired to find out more about them and even read a fantastic novel, Laline Paull’s ‘The Bees’. I’ll never look at a common honeybee the same way!

Volunteering at the Horniman has given me such a valuable insight into the ‘behind-the-scenes’ workings of a museum, and allowed me to meet a wide range of interesting people, from staff to visitors to my fellow volunteers.

I hope to learn more as my volunteering journey continues!

Our Access Advisory Group

The Horniman's Access Advisory Group meets 4 times per year.

Its membership is made up of volunteers who have lived experience of disability and a keen interest in making the museum more accessible to Disabled people.

Here, Julia Austin – a member for over a year – shares what has been happening.

"I always look forward to our meetings: we cover so many different topics and everyone is so friendly and welcoming.

Examples of things we have fed back on include Equality and Diversity training, web design and content, accessibility of the museum gardens and volunteering schemes. Now we are working on a display about disability that will be shown in one of the main galleries.

We're introduced to staff from different departments and they sit in our meetings so we really feel part of the museum. We've also started doing a newsletter. Recently Brighton Museum Access Group came to visit us, and staff from the V&A Musuem and Shakespeare's Globe have also dropped in.

It's been really cool working with people who have different abilities. I've learned a lot about people's needs and it's given me fresh perspectives on a whole range of things, not least approaches to museum engagement! It's exciting to come together and develop a collective voice :)"

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