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Curiocity: In Pursuit of London

Take part in a cultural treasure hunt around London.

  • Walrus Tile, The Horniman Walrus tile is hiding somewhere in our Museum. Track it down and its clues will help you in the Curiocity treasure hunt.
    The Horniman Walrus tile is hiding somewhere in our Museum. Track it down and its clues will help you in the Curiocity treasure hunt.

Everyone knows that the Horniman Walrus lives on top of an iceberg in the middle of the Natural History Gallery.

But did you know there is a second, very small walrus also located somewhere in the Museum?

Hidden somewhere in our Museum is a tile with a drawing of the walrus. This tile is part of a treasure hunt. Six tiles are located in various cultural places around London.

You can find clues to the locations of these tiles on p.449 of the book Curiocity: In Pursuit of London.

  • Curiocity: In Pursuit of London, The Horniman is mentioned in the book Curiocity:In Pursuit of London
    The Horniman is mentioned in the book Curiocity:In Pursuit of London

  • Curiocity: In Pursuit of London, Beware traveller of the Horniman Walrus!
    Beware traveller of the Horniman Walrus!

Gather up all the clues on these tiles and they will take you to a secret location where you can inscribe your name on to a winner’s list which will be included in future reprints of the book.

Good luck!

How to make felt animals

One of our Volunteers, Genevieve, has been inspired by the Horniman collections to make her own animals. Her tiny harvest mouse has stolen our hearts. Find out how she went about making them look realistic. 

'Being part of the engage volunteer team, I have been able to encourage children to look more carefully at animals though the handling collection. I’ve also helped them learn by asking them questions and encouraging them to feel and experience the animal. I have seen the wonder and excitement at being able to touch the soft fur of a wild rabbit and the hard sharp teeth of a lion amongst other treasures.

I have also been learning myself about the animals in the Natural History Gallery and the Nature Base. From day one of my Volunteering, I fell in love with the live harvest mice in the Nature Base and rushed home to try and make one of my own.

  • Felt harvest mouse, The inspiration for this felt creation is the harvest mouse in the Horniman Nature Base
    The inspiration for this felt creation is the harvest mouse in the Horniman Nature Base

I learnt about their prehensile tails which curl around the straw or grass they live in. They make spherical nests which they weave out of dry grass. The lucky Horniman mice have a fantastic home with a couple of tennis balls to hide in, which you can see in their glass case.

I made my own mouse using a wire, felting wool and even some bits of an old brush for whiskers. I wanted him to look like the taxidermy examples in the Museum so I mounted him on some pieces of wheat!

  • Felt harvest mouse, By attaching the felt mouse to straw it makes it look like it is in its natural habitat
    By attaching the felt mouse to straw it makes it look like it is in its natural habitat

One of my favourite animals is the gecko. This is a picture of a family pet, a leopard geko, which I tried to copy.

  • leopard gecko, The pet family leopard gecko
    The pet family leopard gecko

I started with a frame made out of wire to get the general shape of the animal. Then, I wrapped it up with string to make a “bind” just as a taxidermist does. Wool is then wrapped around to build up the body then the process of needle felting helps to add details and definition to the limbs. The needle felting needle has tiny notches along it to help tangle and mesh the wool fibres together.

  • How to make felt animals, A wire 'skeleton' lies at the heart of the animal and is covered in felt
    A wire 'skeleton' lies at the heart of the animal and is covered in felt

I used glass beads as eyes. I tried to get all the spot patterns to match the photograph of the real gecko. I also used the exhibits in the gallery to check to see that I had the gecko leg shapes correct and found out about a gecko which can fly!

  • Felt geko, The finished felt geko
    The finished felt geko

  • Felt polar bear, Another felt creation - a polar bear
    Another felt creation - a polar bear

I have just been given a full fleece of Jacob’s sheep wool and will try to copy some of the skills of the nomadic people by wet felting the wool to make some slippers for winter! You can see some Inuit socks on the Horniman website which are made by wet felting. This fabric is still made into objects such as hats, clothing, tents, bags and rugs.'

  • Felt elephant, A felt elephant with a lovely long trunk
    A felt elephant with a lovely long trunk

Life after death: about ethical taxidermy

Memorial. A Tribute to Taxidermy’ is currently on display in our Natural History Gallery. Here, ethical taxidermist and artist, Jazmine Miles-Long, tells us about the process of taxidermy.

  • About ethical taxidermy, Jazmine Miles-Long painting a taxidermy stoat ,  Ali Graham
    Jazmine Miles-Long painting a taxidermy stoat ,  Ali Graham

How do you create taxidermy?

Taxidermy involves a lot of processes and skills. The first thing that must be done is to collect all of the details about the specimen – how, when and where it died. There are many laws to protect wildlife in the UK that taxidermists must adhere to. So it is important to check if the species you are working with needs specific legal paperwork.

Then comes the skinning, which I think many presume will be very messy but it’s not that bad. Underneath the skin is a membrane that acts like a second skin keeping the body together in one piece. Working carefully between these layers means the skin can be simply peeled away. If all goes well not much blood is actually present. If I am working on a mammal, the skin must be pickled and tanned in a similar process to leather. Whereas with birds, all of the fat must be cleaned away from the feather tracts where the quills poke through on the inside of the skin.

Then the form replacing the muscular structure of the animal has to be created using measurements taken from the actual animal's body to recreate the same shape and size. Taxidermists use a variety of materials to make this form, I use carved balsa wood for birds and a bind-up for the mammals. A bind-up is made by wrapping wood-wool (fine, soft wood-shavings, typically used as a packing material) tightly around wire using cotton thread to hold the structure together. In both birds and mammals the skull is cleaned and used within the head. Some of the wing and leg bones are kept attached to the bird skin with all the flesh cleaned away.

The skin is then mounted onto the form, the facial expression is sculpted under the skin often with clay and the eyes are made from glass or acrylic. Once the piece has dried, any skin not covered by fur or feathers loses its colour turning a dark yellow or grey. Such as around the eyes, within ears, on pads of the feet of mammals and legs and bills of birds. Finally the last stage is to paint these areas using acrylic paints. 

See a video of this process below. Please be aware that this video shows scenes of animals being skinned and flesh being removed from bones.

How long will an artwork take to complete from start to finish?

It depends on the size and type of the animal. For instance larger mammals take longer as there is simply more body to build and skin to sew, also a longer time is needed to pickle a larger skin and for the piece to then dry once finished. On the other hand a smaller specimen such as a tiny bird, needs a far more delicate approach working slowly so not to rip the skin. I would work on a larger mammal over the period of a month while the skin pickles and dries. And although I can complete a small bird in one day, I prefer to break up the stages over a few days so I can take my time and get the piece right. Alongside making the taxidermy I create the cases and groundwork to accompany them and often will be working on several pieces at once.

Do you have to know a lot about zoology and natural history?

To be a good taxidermist you must have a keen love of animals and the natural world to understand the way they live and move. I did not study Zoology or Natural History but have always been fascinated by nature and learnt a lot through physically making taxidermy. I have discovered so much about the individuality of species through working closely with the animals in a way I’m not sure I could have from a distance.

How did you get into Taxidermy as a career?

When I finished university in 2007 I wanted to work in museum conservation and so volunteered at the Booth Museum of Natural History in Brighton. While I was there my focus turned to the taxidermy and I decided to give it go with the help of the museum's Curator. After that I wanted to be a taxidermist and spent the years that followed practicing and learning about the craft. I now work with the Booth Museum often and am grateful that they helped point me in the direction I have taken. Museums are amazing places that can truly inspire.

'Memorial. A Tribute to Taxidermy' is on display from 22 October 2016 to 1 May 2017.

What's your favourite 60s Rock song?

The Museu da Imigração in São Paulo Brazil have been inspired to put on an English-themed music concert in their Gardens.

  • Museum of Immigration, Music in the Garden concert at the Museum of Immigration − ©  Museu da Imigracao
    Music in the Garden concert at the Museum of Immigration

This summer we had a Brazilian theme to our events and exhibitions. Our Festival of Brasil celebrated the South American country in all its many colours and diversities.

We met and worked with many Brazilian partners – artists, musicians, dancers and other museums. One museum we worked with is the Museu da Imigração (Museum of Immigration) in São Paulo in Brazil. We discovered that we have similar events to the Museu da Imigração.

Throughout July and August we put on Jazz Picnics and Sunday Bandstand concerts where we celebrated the diversity of Brazilian music, from Samba to Forró, Tropicália to MPB, and Bossa Nova to Choro.

The Museu da Imigração have similar events in their Gardens. Their Música no Jardim (Music in the Gardens) concerts happen once a month and focus on a different theme or place each time. We love seeing the similarities and differences between our events!

As a way of connecting with us, they are going to use one of their Music in the Gardens concerts to focus on English Music – much like our summer concerts focused on Brazilian music.

Their band, Vitroux, will be playing 60s British Rock songs. Their set list will include:

1. Heart Full of Soul - Yardbirds

2. We've Gotta Get Out of this Place - The Animals

3. Ask Me Why - The Beatles

4. Please Please Me - The Beatles

5. Waterloo Sunset - The kinks

6. Afternoon Tea - The Kinks

7. Worksong  - The Animals

8. Blue Feeling - The Animals

9. Wild Thing - The Troggs  

10. Under my Thumb - The Rolling Stones

11. Cool Calm and Collected - The Rolling Stones

12. Chains - The Beatles

13. Tattoo - The Who

14. Our Love Was - The Who

15. My Generation - The Who

We want you to have your say and vote for your favourite song from their list. Which song do you think sums up British music from the 60s? Do you think there are any vital songs they have forgotten?

You can vote by writing your comments on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. We will then share your comments with the Museu da Imigração.

Inspired by Anna Atkins

Today is Ada Lovelace day when we celebrate women in science, technology, engineering and maths.

Our Librarian, Helen Williamson, is here to tell us about her work with our community partners creating beautiful cyanotypes inspired by Anna Atkins.

  • Inspired by Anna Atkins, Cyanotype made by Shaftesbury Clinic, Springfield Hospital.
    Cyanotype made by Shaftesbury Clinic, Springfield Hospital.

‘We have written about Anna Atkins before on Ada Lovelace day but it’s a great opportunity to talk about her again, the beautiful book we hold in the library and the wonderful process of making cyanotypes.

The cyanotype was invented by Sir John Herschel in 1842. He was a family friend of Atkins and a regular visitor at the family home in Kent. Atkins was a keen artist, as well as an enthusiastic botanist, and recognised that Herschel’s new invention, which required only a few chemicals, water and sunlight, offered an opportunity to approach botanical illustration in a different way.

  • Inspired by Anna Atkins, Cyanotype made by Aisling from the Horniman Youth Panel.
    Cyanotype made by Aisling from the Horniman Youth Panel.

In 1843, she started work producing the cyanotypes that would make up Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions. It is considered to be the first ever photographically illustrated book and we are very lucky to have a copy in our library which was previously owned by the museum’s founder, Frederick Horniman.

To make a cyanotype, objects are placed on a sheet of chemically treated paper and then exposed to sunlight. The length of exposure depends upon how bright a day it is. Once exposed, the paper is washed in water and dried, with the colour fully developing when dry.

The process of creating cyanotypes is almost unchanged since Anna Atkins was making her book, and it creates remarkably stable prints. Most early photographic prints have deteriorated completely by now or need to be kept in strict, environmentally-controlled storage. Cyanotypes, on the other hand, have endured amazingly well. The colours in our copy of her Photographs of British Algae are beautifully vivid and the paper is robust enough for handling and display.

  • Inspired by Anna Atkins, Cyanotype made by David Quan from Redstart Arts.
    Cyanotype made by David Quan from Redstart Arts.

Over the summer the library and the learning team ran an engagement project with a number of our community partners who were challenged to make cyanotypes of their own, inspired by Anna Atkins and using the botanical world around them. This is some of the beautiful work they produced.

  • Inspired by Anna Atkins, Cyanotype made by Eliot Bank Museum Club.
    Cyanotype made by Eliot Bank Museum Club.

  • Inspired by Anna Atkins, Cyanotype made by Esther and Maya from the Horniman Youth Panel.
    Cyanotype made by Esther and Maya from the Horniman Youth Panel.

  • Inspired by Anna Atkins, Cyanotype made by L.G, Arts Network.
    Cyanotype made by L.G, Arts Network.

  • Inspired by Anna Atkins, Cyanotype made by the Stroke Association.
    Cyanotype made by the Stroke Association.

A book of all of the cyanotypes made during this project is available to view in the library, alongside other material about Anna Atkins.

Visit one of our Library Open Days on the first Sunday of every month, or book an appointment.

Charms, amulets and resilience

Our museum youth theatre groups are inspired by the Horniman amulet collection to create Discovery Boxes of magic and protection. 

  • Charms, amulets and resilience, scrolls with magic protective rituals
    scrolls with magic protective rituals

Every Monday, we work in partnership with GLYPT to hold two museum youth theatre groups – one for eight-11 year olds and one for 11-14 year olds. This is part of GLYPT’s ‘Whatever’ programme.

Each term, the 2 groups work to a particular museum theme. As the Horniman holds lots of amulets and charms in its collection, in Spring Term we used these and the idea of ‘magic and protection’ for inspiration. This theme was also an interesting way to explore ideas of wellbeing resilience with participants.

Before the drama session starts, there is always Safe Space – this is time to do some artwork, relax after school, chat with others and have a snack. During Safe Space the 11-14 year olds have been making a ‘Discovery Box’ of magic and protection.

Here is the group’s description of the box:
This box has been created by the Whatever Makes You Happy Group in Spring 2016 that meet every Monday and use the objects in the Museum to inspire their drama sessions. In our Discovery Box you’ll find objects that represent magic and protection. It includes:
• Potions of protection.
• Handmade amulets.
• Candle light holders to light the way home.
• Mandalas.
• An individually-designed charm bracelet with a horse shoe for luck, a wand for magic, a symbol for a best friend and a heart for love.

  • Charms, amulets and resilience, Daisy's Rainbow Dream Magic Potion
    Daisy's Rainbow Dream Magic Potion

  • Charms, amulets and resilience, A colourful mandala to decorate the box
    A colourful mandala to decorate the box

  • Charms, amulets and resilience, Sunshine magic potion
    Sunshine magic potion

Here are the ingredients to Summer’s Sunshine Magic Potion and powers they could give you:
• One cup of magical gems.
• Three cups of feathers – protection that guides the way.
• Two sparkly bells of happiness and forgiveness.
• Three drops of sweets that tells you the path to go on.
• One magic shell of sound that protects you from danger.
• Finally two blue and yellow see through papers that turn you invisible whenever you want.

About the Art: Mark Fairnington, Collected and Possessed

We caught up with Mark Fairnington to discuss his new exhibiton Collected and Possessed which contains the piece Nest.

How did you decide which pieces would go in the exhibition?

The central focus of this exhibition is museums and storage, so in addition to the Horniman I worked with the Wellcome and Natural History Museum, London. I wanted to create links, for Natural History Museum and the Horniman there is an animal theme, whereas the Wellcome Collection introduced human pieces as well. I was also inspired by the idea of 'a collection', for example my series of bulls are a collection that I have made.

I am interested in the idea of the museum as a repository of knowledge and a jumping off point for the imagination

One of my favourites is 'Nest', how did you find this object and what inspired you to paint this?

I like that there is something very caring in the way the dog has been packed, there's no sense of death and it is then animated by being painted. Some of the objects are more disturbing.

  • Nest, Mark Fairnington
    , Mark Fairnington

Mark Fairnington's 'Nest'


The detail is extraordinary, do you prefer to use a certain type of paint or brush to achieve this?

I prefer to use very fine brushes, spotter brushes and rigger brushes, which have very thin, long bristles to make fine lines. I like the obsessive attention to detail across the whole portrait, it's uncanny and slightly strange. It has a surreal effect, like something that has been heightened, similar to HD.

The taxidermy terrier that inspired 'Nest' is also on display in the exhibition

Unlike some of the other pieces, 'Nest' has a background, for example the bulls don't, why did you adopt this style?


Once I pick a specimen I would like to work with, I set up a photography day so there are photos of it from different angles, in this case in and out of the box; photography is a way of imagining all the possibilities. He looked awkward out of his box, and I was very aware he was stuffed, I didn't want that, I wanted a comfortable feel.

The title of the exhibition, 'Possessed' also responds to the idea of the spirit of the object that is released by the imagination of the people looking at it

Do you have a favourite piece or a piece that you felt particularly inspired by in the exhibition?


From the Horniman, I found the monkey face covered in plastic received lots of comments from viewers. I like to then go and look at it again, the creative process can be a bit dispassionate so it is good to revisit a work.

Sponsors

Project Coral at Charterhouse Aquatics

On Saturday 14 November, Charterhouse Aquatics hosted a fundraising event at their showroom in Haggerston to raise awareness and support for the ground-breaking Project Coral.

A couple of years ago, the Horniman Aquarium became the first institution globally to purposefully reproduce broadcast coral in captivity. This significant achievement led to Project Coral, an innovative coral sexual reproductive research project, run by the Horniman Aquarium with international partners.

The current phase of the project is mirroring in the Horniman laboratory the conditions of the wild reefs, to predictably spawn broadcast coral. We do this using microprocessor technologies to explore the influences of the lunar cycle, diurnal changes, seasonal temperature changes, solar irradiation patterns and nutritional input on gamete (egg and sperm) production and release.

In time, the aim is to push the laboratory reef into a future environmental state. This will allow the team to investigate the effects of climate change on coral reproduction before it happens in the wild; and to understand what is needed to preserve this vital element of the world’s ecology and economy.

The Charterhouse Aquatics event was a great success in generating public awareness for Project Coral and raising vital funds. Customers, hobbyists and the general public met with Jamie and there were three fascinating presentations throughout the day and evening, a DJ spinning tunes, a raffle and a chance to see a stunning Project Coral tank display now on show at Charterhouse Aquatics.

 

Peoplescape Theatre at the Horniman Museum and Gardens

This week at the Horniman we saw the final performance of Tom’s Ship of Stories by Peoplescape Theatre. This interactive theatre show is the culmination of a project which has been running for over a year. 

Peoplescape Theatre, in conjunction with the Horniman, Cutty Sark and National Maritime Museum have worked with SEN Primary Schools local to each museum to create a story inspired by their collections. 

Outreach workshops in Brent Knoll, Willowdene & Stephen Hawkins schools, gave pupils the opportunity to create the story, decide on the characters and develop the plot.  Peoplescape then helped develop this into an interactive performance. 

There were opportunities for all to take part; scrubbing the decks and singing shanties, helping Tom overcome some troubles on his travels and multi-sensory experiences for the audience to enjoy; such as smelling tea leaves and feeling cherry blossom petals fall from the sky!

Local SEN Primary Schools had the opportunity to come and enjoy one of 5 free performances at the Horniman. The legacy of this partnership will be the creation of a new facilitated schools session for SEN schools.

Enter a European Design Challenge

  • Food and Drink, Some objects from the Horniman's collection relating to food and drink: a teapot from India, a cup from England, a porringer from Romania and a butter container from Ethiopia.
    Some objects from the Horniman's collection relating to food and drink: a teapot from India, a cup from England, a porringer from Romania and a butter container from Ethiopia.

Calling all designers, makers, creatives and crafts-people! Have you ever been inspired while visiting a museum?

The Horniman is a partner in a Europe-wide project called Europeanan Food and Drink. It aims to create exciting products inspired by Europe's rich food and drink heritage.

Our recently launched web app Tea Trail London is our contribution to the project.

The project has recently launched a product design challenge with two prizes of €2,000.

Explore food and drink related collections (like those above) in Europeana and also on the Horniman site.

Use the inspiration you find there to design a 2D or 3D product - it could be product packaging, towls or tiles or something we've not thought about so far. The two winners (one for 2D and one for 3D) will receive €2,000 which will be presented at a Challenge Event in January in Seville, Spain.

To enter, make a short video explaining your product idea.

The closing date for entries is 20 December 2015. There is lots more information on the Europeana Food and Drink website

We'd love to see your ideas. If you have any questions, feel free to tweet us or Europeana Food and Drink.

 

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