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Earl, his stroke and visiting the Horniman

The Horniman regularly hosts visits from the Stroke Association, enabling stroke surviviors and their families to meet and explore the collections. Earl Bent has written a little about his visits to the museum and how they have aided in his recovery.

After having a stroke in December 2013, I spent 2 weeks in the Kings College Hospital Stroke Unit, followed by 6 weeks of occupational therapy home visits to help me regain the use of my right side and my speech. I was visited by Annette Carty who explained the various services offered by the Stroke Association. We spoke about furthering my communication skills which lead to me being introduced to Rachel Morrison who is the Communication Support Coordinator for Lewisham.

One of the services which sounded interesting to me was the communication group that meets on the last Thursday of every month at the world famous Horniman Museum and Gardens in Forest Hill, South London.

With trepidation and great anxiety I attended my first meeting. Within the first fifteen minutes, the group along with Rachel made me realise that my initial feelings were not warranted. Although in my personal life I have great support, it was nice to be surrounded by people that have a greater and personal understanding of the impact a stroke has on your life and many issues faced whilst trying to overcome it.

The first meeting consisted of a slow but steady walk around the Horniman Gardens where we looked at and identified the various groups of plants. My personal favourite was the Mint Chocolate Tree! After the walk, we all returned to a room where a lively discussion was had.

  • Looking at wine leafs, The Stroke Association Group have been visiting the Gardens over the summer
    The Stroke Association Group have been visiting the Gardens over the summer

The second meeting I attended was about musical instruments and objects pertaining to communication throughout the ages. This included a visit to Music Gallery which houses a vast array of musical instruments. Some were odd looking, some fantastical and some were outright amazing.

My next meeting with the group was to the superb aquarium at the museum.  By now I had found that the partnership between the Stroke Association and the Horniman is of great benefit to Stroke survivors, their families and volunteers. It was because of this that although I did not always feel up to the journey, I pushed myself to attend.

  • A visit to the Aquarium , The Stroke Association have worked in the Aquarium and the Hands on Base
    The Stroke Association have worked in the Aquarium and the Hands on Base

The fourth meeting I attended, the group learnt about the art of communication through gesture and subtle nuances of movement in the body. We were thoroughly entertained by a Lady named Francesca, who is a trained Performing Artist and we looked at various masks and the roles they play in communication in societies. I was paired with Claudette, a fellow stroke survivor, and together we performed a short non-verbal set depicting 3 main gestures: shock, understanding & laughter.

  • Earl and Claudette, A sesssion with mime artist Francesca Martello
    A sesssion with mime artist Francesca Martello

I find myself looking forward to each and every meeting and disappointed when it is over in what seems like no time at all.

Who would have thought that when Frederick Horniman gave the museum to the people of London in 1901 it would become an aid to help in the recovery of stroke survivors.

I can honestly say without a shadow of a doubt, that if not for the marriage between the Stroke Association and the Horniman, I would not be able to share this with you!

Sam Loves Horniman

Sam and his family are regular visitors to the Horniman. His mum Jess has written a piece for us explaining why Sam especially loves our storytelling sessions and what keeps them coming back.

My son Sam loves visiting the Horniman. Sam is almost five years old, enjoys stories and is bright. He is also physically disabled, uses a wheelchair and is unable to talk.

It is often hard to find places of interest to Sam, and then to access them with him. It can sometimes be difficult to physically get in to the building or to get Sam close to an exhibit that is high up. For a child who struggles to use his hands, some interactive exhibits can be frustrating and boring.

The Horniman is a rare exception. We discovered 'A World of Stories' events at the museum when Sam was two and have been going regularly ever since. Each Sunday, a storyteller chooses an item from the museum's collection and uses it as the basis for a story. They are often folktales involving animals and distant lands: 'How the lion got his roar' and other exciting adventures.

  • A World of Stories session at the Horniman, Photo by Megan Taylor
    , Photo by Megan Taylor

Children sit on the floor to gather around the storyteller, meaning that Sam can see from his wheelchair. What he really enjoys in a story is lots of drama and a lively telling, and the tales here never disappoint. While Sam is unable to talk, his chuckles make obvious his enjoyment. Some children lose concentration but Sam is totally focused and is often the child laughing loudest and longest.

The only low point is at the end of the session, when Sam often feels sad at the end of the stories. Fortunately, there are lots of other things he finds interesting at the museum, and the whole building is easily navigable with a wheelchair.

He finds the aquarium fascinating and loves to get up close to the insects and fish, which are low enough for him to see from his chair.

  • Our Aquarium tanks are designed so that they can be viewed even at low levels, Photo by Laura Mtungwazi
    , Photo by Laura Mtungwazi

He can also use some of the hands-on instruments in the music room and is also able to play the outdoor instruments with a bit of help.

Sam's brother Eli is two and struggles to sit still for but of course there's plenty for him too at the Horniman - particularly stuffed monkeys (his favourite animal) and live crabs.

Read more about Sam's life at Jessica's website, storieswithsam.com.

Wish Full Thinking

In preparation for November's Festival of Lights Late, artist Mary Branson visited the Horniman to record the wishes, hopes and dreams of our staff and visitors.

Mary will use the resulting recordings for her piece 'Wish Full Thinking'. This installation will see hundreds of thousands of specially-prepared white feathers fill the Horniman Conservatory, and visitors invited to walk amongst them while lit with UV light.

The accompanying sound piece will include the many voices captured by Mary at the Horniman, speaking their own wishes, hopes and dreams.

Mary managed to record a range of voices in her afternoon at the museum, including schoolchildren, participants from community groups, general visitors and even some of our staff.

It was wonderful to see the range of wishes expressed, from lengthy monologues and streams of thought to one-liners, from selfless hopes for the happiness for others, to the simple and ubiquitous 'I wish I could fly'.

Listen to the final sound piece amongst the atmospheric setting of Wish Full Thinking in the Horiman Conservatory at Festival of Lights Late, on Thursday 6 November. Tickets are now available online (over 18s only).

Share your #HornimanMemories

This month at the Horniman we're looking for our visitors to send us their favourite memories of the museum and gardens, to create a collection of #HornimanMemories.

Whether it's the first time you laid eyes on the Horniman Walrus, discovering the view of the London skyline from our Bandstand, or getting your hands on real museum objects in our Hands on Base, we want you to share all your favourite Horniman moments.

To add your memories to the project visit Twitter or Instagram and share using the #HornimanMemories hashtag. You could share a story, a feeling, or even a photo from a previous visit. We'll be using the hashtag to find all the memories shared and collect them together using Storify.

At the end of the month, we'll be selecting our three favourites and offering their owners a year's free Horniman Membership, including free access to the Aquarium and special exhibitions, as well as plenty of other perks, so you can continue to create even more memories here at the Horniman.

We'll also be sharing some of our own #HornimanMemories throughout the project, using pictures from the museum archives to reveal moments from the museum's past. Look out for these on our Twitter account.

A Horniman Wedding at the Horniman

Frederick Horniman’s great, great, great granddaughter, is keeping it in the family as she prepares for her wedding in our Conservatory this weekend. Hilary blogs for us looking back on her family history and why she decided to hold her wedding in her ancestor's museum.

I met my future husband Chris through a mutual friend, nearly five years ago in London. We currently live together in Wapping and are getting married in the Horniman’s Conservatory on Saturday 23 August 2014.

I grew up in London and visited the Horniman many times as a child, both with my grandparents, Hugh and Jessica Wyatt (nee Horniman), and on school trips, where I would proudly tell the rest of the class it was "my great grandpa's museum". Not strictly true, and probably very irritating!

I hadn't been to the Horniman for many years, when on a date with Chris we found ourselves at a loose end at Victoria train station. Chris suggested we get on the next train and go on an adventure - the next train happened to go to Forest Hill. So at about 8pm we found ourselves at the Horniman peering through the railings at "my great grandpa's museum". We've been back many times since, taking friends and their children to see the walrus and other curiosities, and attending events including the opening of the new Gardens. 

I will be wearing a dress of my grandmother’s on my wedding day and a necklace that belonged to my great grandmother Lucille Horniman, which was given to me by my grandmother on my 18th birthday.

It will be bittersweet to get married in one of her favourite places without her there, but I know she would have approved because she wasn't very subtle and I remember her hinting that the Museum would be a wonderful place for a wedding, before Chris had proposed! Michael Horniman, my great uncle, will be attending and I know he's pleased too.

For me the museum represents the sense of adventure and love of travel that my adored grandparents instilled in me. I feel incredibly proud to be getting married there.


Here's a picture of Hilary and Chris on their wedding day with Hilary's great uncle, Michael Horniman.

  • Hilary and Chris with Michael Horniman, Photo by Ben Joseph− © www.benjosephphotography.com
    , Photo by Ben Joseph

(Photo by Ben Joseph)

You can find our more about weddings and civil ceremonies at the Horniman on our Venue Hire pages.

Ethnomusicality with SELAN

Last year, South East London Arts Network (SELAN) member Phil Baird completed one of our community worker training days with fellow artist Carlo Keshishian. As a result, they devised a project for other SELAN members to take part in.

Here they report on the project and what it was like for the group working closely with the Horniman and our collections.


I enjoyed co-facilitating art and music workshops at the wondrous Horniman Museum, upon being summoned by fellow artist and friend Phil Baird.

Initially we had imagined basing the sessions at the Horniman's aquarium due to Phil and I's shared interest in the mysteries of ocean life and deep sea creatures. By the time our workshops came to fruition, however, it had all metamorphosed into another area we are both very much in tune with (pardon the pun), music and improvisation.


We entered the hands on base and quickly got the idea to set a rhythm going and made an amazing piece of improvised piece of music. One participant discovered an amazing gift for solo didgeridoo.

We began working with small pieces of paper and ink pens to draw the rhythms of different instruments such as the Irish Bodhran or African Djembe drum. Everyone created a way of capturing the sound on paper.

Carlo took on a Dr/Shaman role giving individual music treatments literal and metaphorical, each person laying down a track towards a group soundscape recording.

Everyone enjoyed these workshops so much, Phil managed to secure funding from Drake Music Connect and Collaborate to take the project further.  The group recorded the sounds of instruments in the handling collection to create a composition, and then created an animation to go with it.

The brilliant end result is entitled 'Ethnomusicality':

Thanks to everyone at SELAN – you are always a pleasure to work with!

The Big Draw at the Horniman

A couple of weeks ago, the Horniman took part in the annual Big Draw event. This national campaign for drawing sees events spring up all over the UK to encourage people to have a go at drawing, and not just with pencils and paper.

At our Big Draw event, we asked visitors to first choose a word from our list, then to explore the galleries and choose an object that reminded them of their word. The creative bit came in when they were asked to draw their object and then use the drawing to create an artwork from wires and pipecleaners which joined together with everyone else's art to create a massive wire image.

The word choices were ‘love’, ‘memory’, ‘power’, ‘belief’, ‘safety’ and ‘exchange’. Can you guess which word inspirec each of these images?

Some visitors spent their time making faithful reproductions of objects from the collection.

While some chose to set their creativity free and created images not strictly related to the Horniman.

But it wasn’t just about fun and creativity. Events like these are a fantastic opportunity for us to learn from our visitors. For instance, ‘love’ was the run-away winner in the popularity stakes: over half the participants chose this word. Words like ‘safety’ and ‘exchange’ were not chosen nearly as often. Stats like these help us learn which ideas are important to people, and which we should be exploring further.

It also helps to highlight popular objects from the collections: many people chose to recreate masks on display in African Worlds and the Centenary Gallery.

What we learn from events like the Big Draw will be used to inform future developments at the museum so that our visitors can get the most out of the Horniman and its collections.

At the end of the day, all the artworks created were displayed in Gallery Square.

We’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who took part in this year’s Big Draw. Our learning team are always looking for more ways for our audience to participate in the museum’s future, and we hope to plan plenty more fun and creative events for the future.

A Visit from the Stroke Association

The Stroke Association's Communication Support Coordinator Rachel Morrison reports on a recent group visit to the Horniman.

Every year over 450 people have a stroke in Lewisham. The Stroke Association believes in Life After Stroke and runs services in Lewisham to support stroke survivors and their families. I run the Communication Support Service, which enables stroke survivors to attend weekly support groups. Survivors meet regularly and, together with trained volunteers, develop and practice communication skills and build their confidence. The group is a lifeline for many stroke survivors, and helps them to work towards their own personal goals and achievements.

We decided to go to the Horniman Museum recently instead of our usual group. It was a really fun day out, we were lucky that the sun was shining so were able to sit outside on the lawn for some coffee and cakes!  The museum is really easy to navigate and the exhibits are so varied that there was something for everyone. One group member said the aquarium had brought back memories of when she went scuba diving and others had enjoyed reminicing about musical instruments they used to play whilst looking around the music exhibit.

  • Music Gallery 2, Photo by Peter Cook
    , Photo by Peter Cook

We were able to take lots of photos so it should be fun looking back on them at the next group and having a good discussion. Quite a few people were inspired to visit the museum again, with one group member saying she had lived in Lewisham all her life and couldn’t believe she had never been to the Horniman before, she is hoping to go along with her family soon!

Group member Anne Jones also sent us her thoughts on the visit.

I hadn’t visited the Horniman Museum since my grandchildren were small, but I really enjoyed my visit. I liked seeing the fish in the aquarium, they looked wonderful, and we particularly liked watching the jellyfish opening in and out.

  • Aquarium - Jellyfish, Photo by Ludo Des Cognets
    , Photo by Ludo Des Cognets

The models of the man and woman in the African Worlds exhibition looked beautiful and really life like. I thought the models of the stuffed animals looked good but I wasn’t too keen on the models of the insects, I didn’t like them at all!

I didn’t get chance to see the clock this time but I would like to visit again and explore some more as there was so much to see.

At the end of our visit we sat outside the café in the sun and enjoyed a nice coffee while we planned our next visit to the museum. I enjoyed my visit and I’m planning to go again soon, next time I’ll be heading to the music exhibition!  

#wanderingwalrus inspiration

Last week, we announced a photo competition to find the best snap of our cuddly toy walrus out and about and on holiday.

Who knows where the walruses will wander to? Here are some ideas to get you going.

  • Walrus in Paris, Thanks for Henry from London for this photo of a walrus enjoying the Eiffel Tower
    Thanks for Henry from London for this photo of a walrus enjoying the Eiffel Tower

This walrus has travelled beyond Margate and Britain's shores, all the way to Paris to gaze upon the Eiffel Tower.

  • Underwater Walrus, Walrus deep in the Pacific Ocean, Photo by Jamie Craggs
    Walrus deep in the Pacific Ocean, Photo by Jamie Craggs

This walrus has plunged into the depths of the tropical Pacific Ocean, a very long way from a walrus's usual habitat.

  • Walrus at Attersee, Austria, Enjoying the clear waters of a beautiful Austrian lake, Photo by Christian Huez
    Enjoying the clear waters of a beautiful Austrian lake, Photo by Christian Huez

And this walrus is enjoying the crystal clear, beautiful blue Alpine waters at Attersee Lake in Austria.

So the only question is: where will you take your #wanderingwalrus?

To enter the competition, you can tweet, instagram or upload your photos to flickr using the hashtag #wanderingwalrus. You can also email them to web@horniman.ac.uk. We're looking forward to seeing your photos!

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