[Skip to content] [Skip to main navigation] [Skip to user navigation] [Skip to global search] [Accessibility information] [Contact us]

Previous Next
of 43 items

Bioblitz Round Five: Fish Reviewed

We have reviewed the final vertebrate collection, the fish. Ollie Crimmen from the Natural History Museum helped us out. Ollie has worked in the fish section at the NHM for over 40 years and is a Senior Curator there. To find out more about his work and to hear some of his fantastic tales (e.g. his childhood visits to the NHM and working with Damien Hirst) head over to the NHM's website.

Most of the fish material is fluid preserved which meant we spent a day and a half in the fluid container with Ollie looking through a few hundred jars. As with all the previous reviews, Ollie was looking for fish specimens of significance in terms of their historic and scientific attributes. Rarities were also highlighted, as were those with particularly special public engagement potential. We labelled these up with our green Star labels.

We also looked at material at the other end of the scale: specimens which, for a variety of reasons, could be flagged as candidates for re-use (perhaps in an institution better placed to explore that specimen's story). We'll be talking about this in a later blog post.

Once the fluid material was reviewed, we moved inside to look at the dry specimens: fish cases, skeletal material and other odds and ends. Ollie worked his way through the relatively large number of globe and puffer fish and then had a look through the fish osteology (bone) collection.

Reviewing the rest of the fish collection only took a few hours, so in two days we managed to look at all of our fish material. That means now the vertebrates and invertebrates have all been reviewed, as have the geology collections. In fact, all that's left are the botany (plants) and oology (eggs) reviews to do.

Check out our Flickr page to see all the photos from the reviews so far and remember to follow us @HornimanReviews on Twitter for updates and more behind the scenes treats.

Bioblitz Rocks! Geoblitz: Round Two - Fossils Reviewed

The last of our geological collections were reviewed recently as part of our Bioblitz project.

We were visited by Matthew Parkes, the Assistant Keeper of Natural History at the National Museum of Ireland, where he looks after rocks, meteorites and minerals, as well as the extensive fossil collection. Matthew's present roles include being Editor of The Geological Curator journal for the Geological Curators' Group, and he also serves on the Collections Advisory Committee for the British Geological Survey.

With over 175,000 specimens to review over three days, we knew we had to be quick. Luckily we had done many Bioblitz reviews by this point and were able to hit the ground running. Matthew and Paolo, Deputy Keeper of Natural History at the Horniman, looked through every one of the hundreds of drawers in the geology store.

As they went, Matthew highlighted any significant material, such as specimens collected by someone historically important, material with fantastic public engagement opportunties because of the stories associated with it, or specimens collected from protected areas.

The geology store rooms don't make it too easy to have a quick look at the collection but by being prepared and setting up a system of opening drawers, checking the contents, recording the results, labelling the specimens, etc. we were able to be more efficient and get through them.

Like with some of the previous reviews, a large part of the geology collection was to identify areas which warrant further research. Highlighting parts of the collection which may prove very important means we can prioritise our work in the future.

At the same time as the review, we had someone in to check the fossil collections for radioactive material. We also had our workshop technician pop in to help us loosen some stubborn drawers so that Matthew could have a look at every single specimen in the collection and leave no stone unturned.

That's the entire geology collection reviewed and the Bioblitzes are almost done. Next up: fish.

 

Alpacas arrive in the Animal Walk

Today we got to welcome two new arrivals to the Horniman Gardens.

  • Alpaca Arrival, George and Percy make their way out of the trailer, Photo by Vicky Pearce
    George and Percy make their way out of the trailer, Photo by Vicky Pearce
  • Alpaca Arrival, The new arrivals make their way through the Gardens to the Animal Walk, Photo by Vicky Pearce
    The new arrivals make their way through the Gardens to the Animal Walk, Photo by Vicky Pearce

George and Percy are two young male alpacas who will be making themselves at home in the Animal Walk.

  • Alpaca Arrival, George and Percy survey their new surroundings, Photo by Vicky Pearce
    George and Percy survey their new surroundings, Photo by Vicky Pearce

Over the coming weeks they will be settling in and getting to know Cat and the rest of the Animal Keepers before the Animal Walk opens later this Summer.

  • Alpaca Arrival, Animal Keeper Cat gets to know the new arrivals, Photo by Vicky Pearce
    Animal Keeper Cat gets to know the new arrivals, Photo by Vicky Pearce

These three aren't too sure about the new boys - they've never seen sheep with such long necks before! Either that or they're just upset at having their limelight stolen.

  • Alpaca Arrival, The sheep aren't so sure, Photo by Vicky Pearce
    The sheep aren't so sure, Photo by Vicky Pearce

George and Percy are here on a holiday from their home in Kent, and will stay here until our own alpaca pair is ready to move in. We hope they feel at home during their stay and that lots of our visitors are able to meet and greet them before they head back.

  • Percy, Photo by Vicky Pearce
    , Photo by Vicky Pearce
  • George, Photo by Vicky Pearce
    , Photo by Vicky Pearce

If you do spot them from the Gardens, they're pretty easy to tell apart. Percy is a little taller, and almost white in colour, while George is a smaller chap in a light brown colour called 'fawn'.

  • Alpaca Arrival, George and Percy start to settle in, Photo by Vicky Pearce
    George and Percy start to settle in, Photo by Vicky Pearce

There are still a few smaller animals to arrive in the Animal Walk before opening. They will all spend time getting to know their new keepers and surroundings, while we make sure they are ready for their admiring public. Watch this space for further updates.

Collecting in Benin

A textile piece from northern Benin is a new addition to the Horniman's Anthropology Collection, as result of the Horniman Museum Collecting Initiative.

The piece was commissioned earlier this year by Sam Nixon of the University of East Anglia, as part of the ERC-funded project Crossroads of Empires, which aims to explore Archaeology, material culture and sociopolitical relationships in West Africa.

Sam updates us on how the piece was commissioned and made:

The textile commissioned is a ‘wedding blanket’ (Babbagi), both worn and used for decorating the home. It was made by Tanda Hamani, a retired weaver, who also made the loom to produce it.

  • Collecting in Benin, Constructing the loom, Photo by Sam Nixon
    Constructing the loom, Photo by Sam Nixon

Tanda already possessed various loom components, and shuttles.

  • Collecting in Benin, Photo by Sam Nixon
    , Photo by Sam Nixon
  • Collecting in Benin, Photo by Sam Nixon
    , Photo by Sam Nixon

Although the textile was made in a cotton producing area, the cotton Tanda used actually came from neighbouring Niger. No textiles had been made in the weaver’s household for seven years.

  • Collecting in Benin, Photo by Sam Nixon
    , Photo by Sam Nixon

The blanket was woven in narrow strips, which would then be sewn together.

  • Collecting in Benin, Photo by Sam Nixon
    , Photo by Sam Nixon

Each strip has to be carefully created with a view as to how it fits into the overall design.

  • Collecting in Benin, Photo by Sam Nixon
    , Photo by Sam Nixon

  • Collecting in Benin, Photo by Sam Nixon
    , Photo by Sam Nixon

After some two weeks, with all strips completed, they were unrolled and divided up, the ‘unwoven’ gaps defining the individual strips cut to free them.

  • Collecting in Benin, Dividing the woven strips so they can be combined into the finished pattern, Photo by Sam Nixon
    Dividing the woven strips so they can be combined into the finished pattern, Photo by Sam Nixon

Sewing the strips together completes the design developing in the weaver’s mind. Eventually they combine to create a mosaic of colour and design.

  • Collecting in Benin, Stiching the completed strips of textile together to form the final piece, Photo by Sam Nixon
    Stiching the completed strips of textile together to form the final piece, Photo by Sam Nixon

  • Collecting in Benin, The finished textile, Photo by Sam Nixon
    The finished textile, Photo by Sam Nixon

The textile was kindy modelled for us, showing the central square motif on the back.

  • Collecting in Benin, Photo by Sam Nixon
    , Photo by Sam Nixon
  • Collecting in Benin, Photo by Sam Nixon
    , Photo by Sam Nixon

Accompanying the ‘wedding blanket’ in the Horniman collection will be film footage, photographs, and a report by the supervising researchers (Lucie Smolderen, Université Libre de Bruxelles, and Romuald Tchibozo, Université Abomey-Calavi).

Ever wondered how to lift a one-ton Walrus?

Next week the Horniman Walrus will be making his way to Margate to feature in the Hayward Touring exhibition Curiosity: Art & The Pleasures of Knowing at Turner Contemporary.

Our famously over-stuffed walrus, weighing in at just under one ton, has been in our Natural History Gallery since 1901. Since then, he hasn’t moved more than 25 feet, so getting him out and on his way to the coast is a huge task for museum staff to organise.

Our conservation department has been working with specialist art handlers to ensure the move goes as smoothly as possible. Preparations are under way: the Walrus has already received his annual clean, and the larger pieces of his iceberg are being moved away.

  • Walrus Clean, Photo by acapmedia
    , Photo by acapmedia
  • Iceberg Removal, The Walrus' iceberg needs to be removed to allow access for the all-important lift.
    The Walrus' iceberg needs to be removed to allow access for the all-important lift.

The biggest challenge is the need to lift the Walrus out of the gallery over the other cases. The Natural History Gallery will be closed to the public next week while this is happening, but we've put together some simple sketches to help you picture what will happen.

Ever wondered how to lift a one-ton Walrus?

The Walrus will be lifted on Monday 13 and will leave the Museum on Wednesday 15 May. The Natural History Gallery will be closed throughout, so this week is your last chance to wave goodbye and wish him well on his holiday. He'll return to the Museum in September.

Be sure to follow the Walrus' journey on Twitter, and keep an eye on our blog, as we'll be live-blogging throughout. You can even catch up with the Walrus' own comments @HornimanWalrus.

Tea Drinking Along the Silk Road

On Tuesday 23 April we were delighted to host a lecture by Helen Saberi, author of numerous books and articles on the history of food and drink.

Following on from research she undertook for her most recent publication Tea: A global history, Helen took us through the story of tea trade along the Silk Road. She illustrated her history with some remarkable examples of tea preparation from across Asia, including a Tibetan recipe whereby black tea is mixed with yak butter and the dregs of the cup mopped up with roasted barley flour.

  • Tea Drinking Along the Silk Road, Preparations for the tea tasting sessions
    Preparations for the tea tasting sessions

Another example was qymaq chai, an Afghan wedding tea which mixes green tea with baking soda to turn it pink before milk, sugar and cardamom are added. Finally, the cup is topped off with a ‘float’ of clotted cream.

  • Tea Drinking Along the Silk Road, Enjoying the sunshine on the Pavilion terrace
    Enjoying the sunshine on the Pavilion terrace

After the talk we held a tea tasting and, as it was a beautiful evening, we opted to set it outside on the terrace of our new Gardens Pavilion. Since it seemed strange to drink artisanal teas from  impersonal cups we invited guests to bring their own. There was a great selection, with examples ranging from a Czech produced chai cup purchased in Uzbekistan, to a hand-painted mug commemorating sheep and Scotland!

  • Tea Drinking Along the Silk Road, A mug celebrating Scotland
    A mug celebrating Scotland
  • Tea Drinking Along the Silk Road, We asked attendees to bring their own tea vessels to the tasting session
    We asked attendees to bring their own tea vessels to the tasting session

Don’t forget to book for our next Horniman Talk as part of our Food, Drink and Feasting series, when Dr. Any Mills will be exploring Western Polynesian Food and Drink: Acts of Power on Tuesday 21 May.

You can book for this free event, and the other talks in our series, online through EventBrite.

Bioblitz Round Four

The next Bioblitz is almost upon us. Next week, Kathie Way and Jon Ablett are reviewing our mollusc collections.

Kathie is the Senior Curator (Mollusca) at the Natural History Museum and is responsible for the curation, conservation and interpretation of the Mollusca, Bryozoa and Comparative Anatomy collections (around 9.5 million specimens!). Kathie has particular expertise in the identification and interpretation of historical mollusc material and good knowledge of handwriting/curation methods of early collectors.

Jon is the Curator of non-marine Mollusca & Cephalopoda at the Natural History Museum and is responsible for their curation and upkeep, as well as answering questions, providing loans and identifying and accessioning new material. As curator in charge of cephalopods it was his responsibility to design and manage the preservation, storage and display of museum's the giant squid (Architeuthis dux), acquired in 2004.

Remember to follow us on Twitter @HornimanReviews to see how it goes.

Museum of the Year Judges visit the Horniman

We're very excited to be a finalist for the Art Fund Prize for the Museum of the Year. On Friday last, we were delighted to welcome the judges for their visit to the Horniman.

  • Art Fund judges meet our iconic walrus, Photo by Russell Dornan
    , Photo by Russell Dornan

  • The judges' tour beginning at the Clocktower, Photo by Russell Dornan
    , Photo by Russell Dornan

Starting at the clocktower, we brought them on a tour along the front of the building which neatly shows our history - from Frederick Horniman's original gift to our unique learning spaces.

  • Art Fund judges exploring the Horniman, Photo by Russell Dornan
    , Photo by Russell Dornan

  • Art Fund judge Sarah Crompton exploring our music gallery, Photo by Russell Dornan
    , Photo by Russell Dornan


The tour continued into the gardens, exploring our materials, food, dye and medicine gardens, highlighting how we're making connections between the plants growing there and objects in our collections.

The judges then had some time to explore our galleries and aquarium and meet some of our staff.

  • Art Fund judge Bob and Roberta Smith speaks with aquarium curator Jamie Craggs, Photo by Russell Dornan
    , Photo by Russell Dornan

  • Art Fund judges exploring objects in the Hands On Base, Photo by Russell Dornan
    , Photo by Russell Dornan

  • Art Fund judge Bettany Hughes looks at Art of Harmony exhibition with Mimi Waitzman, Photo by Russell Dornan
    , Photo by Russell Dornan

Later, we explained what made 2012 such a special year at the Horniman: re-launching our gardens, the Body Adorned exhibition, the Big Dance Picnic, our Christmas Fayre, our project with Abbey Manor College - the list goes on!

To close the visit, we showed the judges this video made with our fantastic visitors who tell us why we're their museum of the year.


The winner of the Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year is announced on 4 June.

The Horniman welcomes rAndom International

Last week, the artists behind the Rain Room paid a visit to the Horniman to prepare for their newest work.

Thanks to the support of our fantastic visitors in the Museums at Night vote, rAndom International will be contributing a new installation to our event, The Horniman Garden Party.

In preparation, the group have toured the Horniman to get a real feel for the place and explore the spaces available.

  • Exploring the Aquarium, rAndom International get a feeling for the different displays at the Horniman
    rAndom International get a feeling for the different displays at the Horniman

The Horniman Garden Party will be held on 16 May 2013, as part of Museums at Night. To enjoy rAndom International's installation, live music, poetry, alternative museum tours and much more, book your tickets online.

Bioblitz Round Three

This week marks the start of our Entomology Bioblitz where we will be reviewing our insects collections, following on from our previous Bioblitz reviews of birds, reptiles and mammals.

  • Uraniid Moth - part of our Entomology Bioblitz, Our insect collections contain around 4,700 butterflies, over 2,000 beetles and almost 500 specimens of other insects collected around the world.
    Our insect collections contain around 4,700 butterflies, over 2,000 beetles and almost 500 specimens of other insects collected around the world.

Our insect collections contain around 100,000 specimens collected from around the world. Our expert carrying out the review is Howard Mendel. Howard has spent his career working with natural history collections across several museums, including several years as Head of Entomology Collections at the Natural History Museum.

He has a wide interest in insects and a particular interest in beetles. Howard is involved with many organisations and has been heavily involved in biological recording. In addition to Howard’s many scientific publications, he founded and wrote for the Suffolk Natural History Series.

After leaving the NHM, Howard has continued to work freelance on projects which interest him and we are very happy that the Natural History Bioblitz Collections Review at the Horniman is one of those projects.

  • Giant Locust at the Horniman Museum and Gardens, This specimen is just one of many which will be reviewed during our Entomology Bioblitz
    This specimen is just one of many which will be reviewed during our Entomology Bioblitz

 

Previous Next
of 43 items