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

Previous Next
of 27 items

Around the World in 80 Objects Part Four

 Our Around the World in 80 objects tour has come to a close. We've travelled through Europe, Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas, and at last, we're back in Lewisham.

Every day on our Twitter for 80 days we've been posting a new object that you can see in our World Gallery as we navigated a route around the world.

Find out how our journey came to an end as we followed in the footsteps of Phileas Fogg and celebrated human creativity, imagination, and adaptability around the world.


 

 



























About the Art: Bryan Alexander

We spoke with Bryan Alexander, the photographer behind our new exhibition Yamal: The Stream of Life, about working in the Arctic for almost half a century.

What are you looking for when you capture a photograph?

When I am out on the tundra or in native camps, I tend to just react to whatever is going on around me. It’s hard to plan too much ahead as things can be so unpredictable in the Arctic.

If I am working on a specific story I will often make a list of the subjects that I feel I need to photograph in order to tell the story.

What are the difficulties you face working in and photographing the Arctic and how do you overcome them? 

The cold is one obvious difficulty when working in the Arctic, especially during the winter months.

With the right clothing though I find I can keep warm enough even when photographing in temperatures as low as -58° C. When it’s very cold I usually wear a combination of modern cold weather clothing and traditional native clothes.

Finding cameras that work well at these low temperatures can be challenging, particularly nowadays with most cameras being electrically operated. Batteries lose their power much quicker at extremely low sub-zero temperatures, so I always have to carry a lot of extra batteries.

Transport can also be a problem when travelling in the Arctic, where the distances are vast. Reaching isolated camps and villages can be difficult due to the limited transport. One camp I visited in Chukotka, Siberia took me a month to reach.

During my time working in the Arctic, I have travelled by a wide variety of transport from traditional Arctic transport like dog sleds, snowmobiles, reindeer sleds, and kayaks, to modern transport, like all-terrain vehicles, motor boats, helicopters, and planes.

  • Nenets Selfie, (c) Bryan Alexander / Arcticphoto.com
    , (c) Bryan Alexander / Arcticphoto.com

Having worked in the Arctic for 47 years now, what changes have you noticed to the landscape and to the people?

Of course, the whole world has changed considerably over the past 47 years and the Arctic is no exception.

The only place that I have been and noticed a significant change in the landscape is Northwest Greenland. The warming climate has resulted in the icecap and glaciers receding considerably there.

The Politiken Glacier, which I first travelled on by dog sled in 1971, was used regularly as a route to neighbouring villages and hunting grounds by the local Inuit during the winter months. Now it is impassable by dog sled because of the receding ice and the deep crevasses that have opened up.

To me, the most striking change to affect the Arctic’s native peoples has been the steady decline in their traditional culture. There have been positive changes too, better transport, schools, healthcare etc. I feel privileged to have been able to document this period of change in the life of some of the Arctic indigenous peoples.

What is your fondest memory of working in the Arctic? Or your most notable incident?

I have many fond memories of working in the Arctic, certainly too many to mention here. I think that the most memorable incident occurred on my second trip to North Greenland.

During the winter, I went walrus hunting with three Inuit hunters from the village of Siorapaluk. We travelled by dog sled and were about 30km out on the frozen sea when the ice broke up around us.

For three days we drifted out to sea on a small ice floe, before being blown back towards the Greenland coast during a severe storm. On our fourth day adrift, the local villagers realised it was likely that we were in trouble and alerted the authorities.

Once the storm had subsided a search for us began. Two helicopters searched for us for over five hours and the pilots were on the point of abandoning their search when one of them spotted us on the ice.

Fortunately, there was a happy ending for all concerned in this rather scary incident and a few days later, we all headed out onto the frozen sea to hunt walrus again.

What is your relationship with the Nenets? How did you gain access to their communities and lives?

I first visited the Yamal in 1993 on an assignment for an American magazine. Travelling in isolated areas of Russia at that time was difficult, so I was fortunate when I was offered a ride in a helicopter to visit a remote Nenets reindeer herders’ camp.

When the helicopter landed in a forest clearing, I was amazed to see how traditional the Nenets herders were. They were living in reindeer skin tents and everyone at the camp was dressed from head to foot in traditional reindeer skin clothes.

Sergei Serotetto, the head of the group of herders, invited me to have a meal in his family’s tent. We all got on very well and I ended up asking if I could stay with them. There was a problem in that I had lost my bag containing my cold weather clothing. Sergei and his family quickly solved that problem by finding me a reindeer skin parka and long boots to wear.

I ended up staying over a month with them as they travelled from the forest north across the River Ob and then onto tundra on their 1000km spring migration. The longer I spent with these herders, the more interested I became in Nenets culture and the problems the people faced.

After I returned to the UK, I managed to persuade the magazine’s editor to send me back to the Yamal again at the end of the summer, to re-join Sergey and his family as they began their journey south back to their winter pastures.

Since my two visits there in 1993, I have returned to the Yamal on a number of occasions to document life in different camps and communities. I have photographed, not only Nenets, but also different cultures like the Khanty, Komi and Selkup, who also live in the Yamal.

  • Young girl with goose, (c) Bryan Alexander / Arcticphoto.com
    , (c) Bryan Alexander / Arcticphoto.com

What was it like returning to the Nenets over the years? What surprised you the most about how the community has changed or hasn’t?

Although I have visited the Yamal region many times since 1993, it was only in 2017 that I re-visited Sergey and his family. They were at their winter pastures and it was wonderful to be with them again. It was just like visiting old friends anywhere.

At first glance, there didn’t appear to have been much change. Sergey and his family were still living in the same reindeer skin tent and his wife Galya still made reindeer-skin clothes for the family.

However, I noticed that there had been no snowmobiles in the group back in 1993, everyone travelled by reindeer sled. Nowadays every herder drives his own snowmobile.

In 1993, there had been no electricity at the camp, candles and kerosene lamps were the only light source. Now every tent had a small portable generator, bringing not just light but enough power for laptop computers and TV. Children can watch cartoons before going to sleep, and later in the evening after they have finished their work the adults can watch movies.

In 1993, gas development in the Yamal Peninsula was just beginning. I thought that within ten years there would be no more reindeer herding on the Yamal Peninsula but I have been proved wrong. Although the reindeer herders have lost a considerable amount of their pastures to the gas industry there are now many more reindeer in the Yamal than there were in 1993.

What do you hope people take away from this exhibition?

I would like to think that people will take away an insight into Nenets culture and that the exhibition may even inspire some of them to visit the Yamal see the region for themselves. 

What do you have coming up next?

At the beginning of September 2018, I will be in Moscow for the opening of my exhibition, “The Arctic Circle of Life” at the State Museum of Oriental Art. After that, I plan to travel to Siberia’s Gydan Peninsula and photograph there for about a month.

Around the World in 80 Objects Part Three

Our Around the World in 80 objects tour is now over halfway complete. With Asia under our belts, we're starting our island hopping tour of Oceania.

Every day on our Twitter for 80 days we'll be posting a new object that you can see in our World Gallery as we navigate a route around the world.

We'll take you over mountains, deserts, and oceans, as we plot a course that shows the global span of our Anthropology collection.

Having started right here in England, so far we've moved south through Europe, across Africa, and swept through Asia. Now we'll go island-hopping through Oceania, and traverse the Americas, before swinging back around to Lewisham via the Arctic.

So join us as we follow in the footsteps of Phileas Fogg and celebrate human creativity, imagination, and adaptability around the world.














 

What's important to you?

Our World Gallery has been asking the questions, "What do you hold dear?" and "What objects are important to you?" so we've pulled together some of the responses in the feedback area of the gallery.

My camera

  • My camera, My Camera is important to me because it was my sisters and she's not here anymore. I miss her x
    My Camera is important to me because it was my sisters and she's not here anymore. I miss her x

Munchy Mike

  • Munchy Mike, Munchy Mike
    Munchy Mike

Silver hand of Fatima

  • Silver hand of Fatima, A solid silver hand of Fatima that my grandpa passed down to me when he died. We don't know where exactly it is from but he got it whilst travelling South America I think. It is my most important possession and means everything to me.
    A solid silver hand of Fatima that my grandpa passed down to me when he died. We don't know where exactly it is from but he got it whilst travelling South America I think. It is my most important possession and means everything to me.

Yellow Submarine album

  • Yellow Submarine album, My Yellow Submarine album - The Beatles
    My Yellow Submarine album - The Beatles

Grandmother's ring

  • Grandmothers ring, My late grandmother's ring as it makes me feel she is still with me
    My late grandmother's ring as it makes me feel she is still with me

Ear plugs

  • Ear plugs, Ear plugs
    Ear plugs

Family

  • family, Family is important to me
    Family is important to me

Ice cream

  • Ice cream, Ice cream
    Ice cream

Gin

  • Gin, Gin
    Gin

The Museum of Your Life part 2

Our World Gallery asked the questions, "What objects do you hold dear?" and "What is a life well lived?" 

We've been asking you to tell us about the objects that mean something to you, and we've had some fantastic responses.

Designer Wayne Hemingway tell us about how an early Buzzcocks EP helped spark a life of creativity.

CBeeBies presenter and self-proclaimed 'nature nut' Ferne Corrigan tells us about her salad servers from Malawi.

Percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie tells us about her waterphone, which not only sounds but looks beautiful.

Sculptor David Mach RA tells us what his daughters hand written note on a napkin means to him.

 Actress Kellie Shirley talks about her piece of theare history and what it reminds her of.

What do you hold dear? Tell us online and visit the World Gallery to hear more stories.

Around the World in 80 Objects Part Two

Our Around the World in 80 World Gallery Objects Tour is well under way now. We've travelled across Southern Europe, the length and breadth of Africa, and now we're heading towards Asia.

Every day on our Twitter for 80 days we'll be posting a new object that you can see in our World Gallery as we navigate a route around the world.

We'll take you over mountains, deserts, and oceans, as we plot a course that shows the global span of our Anthropology collection.

Having started right here in England, so far we've moved south through Europe, across Africa, ando now we're looking to sweep through Asia. From there we'll go island-hopping through Oceania, and traverse the Americas, before swinging back around to Lewisham via the Arctic.

So join us as we follow in the footsteps of Phileas Fogg and celebrate human creativity, imagination, and adaptability around the world.

 























 

Growing a Garden from Scratch

Damien from the Gardens team fills us in on the challenges of growing so many plants from other environments right here in Forest Hill.

With the help of Professor of Horticultural Ecology James Hitchmough, our Gardens Team has developed a new Grasslands Gardens and that has meant planting 5,000 perennials from North America and South Africa. 

It’s particularly satisfying for us to see so many plants emerge in our Grasslands Gardens because we produced most of them from seed or cuttings in the Horniman’s own nursery.

  • Grasslands Garden, The Grasslands Garden beginning to bloom, Connie Churcher
    The Grasslands Garden beginning to bloom, Connie Churcher

Roughly 95% of the North American and 40% of the South African species for the display were produced in-house.

Planning for production began in February 2017 when we sat down to look over the final plant list for the beds. Plant production in the Horniman nursery in the past had been mostly bulk crops of annuals – perhaps 2,000 to 3,000 plants per crop - for bedding out the Sunken Garden, so the numbers we saw on the list weren’t a worry for us.

  • Grasslands Garden, The planting plan, Damien Midgley
    The planting plan, Damien Midgley

The largest crops for this project were Echinacea paradoxa, Echinacea tennessensis and the prairie grass Sporobolus heterolepis. These were to be grown in crops of 300 plants each, with most crops under 100 plants.

The big difference with this project was that we weren’t producing quick-growing annuals: plants that complete their life cycle, germination to death, in a single season. These are slower, more demanding perennials for a permanent display. This meant adjusting the growing techniques that the nursery was used to, and getting to know some unfamiliar species, in a short space of time.

James Hitchmough guided us on suitable soil mixes and this, combined with our own research along with information provided by seed suppliers, guided us on timings and conditions for sowing specific crops.

Our sowing mix was equal-parts potting compost, coarse sand, and horticultural grit. For reasons of space, we chose to sow into seed trays rather than individual pots.

As a general rule perennials are better sown into deep individual pots (nine centimetre pots are ideal) for quick, undisturbed root development but this takes up a lot of bench space. Other demands on the greenhouses in April meant space was at a premium, and sowing in trays bought us some time until plants for other projects left the nursery.

  • Grasslands Garden, Seeds and seedlings starting to grow, Damien Midgley
    Seeds and seedlings starting to grow, Damien Midgley

By mid-May, the nursery was starting to empty as plants for other displays went out into the Gardens. We finally had some bench space to work with, and some well-developed seedlings ready to be transferred to nine centimetre pots.

At this stage, our soil mix changed to four parts potting compost, three parts sand, and three parts grit. The higher proportion of potting compost reflecting the plants’ increasing nutrient requirements as they developed, while the sand and grit kept the growing medium open, oxygen-rich, and free-draining.

The process of moving the seedlings from shared seed trays to individual pots, known to gardeners as pricking out, was a major job for us at a busy time of year. Over 2,500 litres of soil mix had to be made up, thousands of pots filled and put into carry trays, hundreds of labels written, and of course, those thousands of seedlings carefully lifted from their trays and potted up one by one.

Once they were potted up the plants spent another fortnight in the greenhouse, recovering from their root disturbance in sheltered conditions. During the second of these two weeks, all the greenhouse vents and doors were left open 24 hours a day, gradually acclimatising the plants to outdoor conditions.

  • Grasslands Garden, Progress of the seedlings over time, Damien Midgley
    Progress of the seedlings over time, Damien Midgley

Finally, at the start of June, they were moved to the outdoor standing ground in the Horniman nursery to grow on to planting size under the watchful eye of the Gardens Team – aphids, snails, and slugs are a constant nuisance.

It was a long process but now that the beds are bursting into life for the public to enjoy we have no doubt it was well worth it.

We hope you’ll come by to visit this beautiful and constantly evolving new display garden.

  • Grasslands Garden, The Grasslands Garden beginning to bloom, Connie Churcher
    The Grasslands Garden beginning to bloom, Connie Churcher

Stars of the Grasslands Garden

Our Grasslands Garden is now open to explore and our Gardener Damien has picked some of his favourite plants in the display. 

Regular visitors to the Gardens may have noticed that the central beds of our new Grasslands Gardens are bursting into life. 5,000 North American and South African perennials planted by the Gardens team last year are waking from their dormancy, and I thought I’d highlight a few of my favourites.

The earliest flowers have bloomed already but there is plenty more to come, with many of the species at their best in late summer. So do come along and visit.

Dodecatheon meadia, ‘shooting star’

I love Dodecatheons so my heart did a little somersault when I saw this on the list for the beds. Dodecatheon meadia is a spring-flowering, summer-dormant relative of the primrose from eastern North America. Its hanging purple flowers have strongly reflexed petals – so much so that they remind me of falling shuttlecocks. Its common name, more poetically, is 'shooting star'.

After germination Dodecatheon seedlings grow for a month or so before doing what, to the uninitiated, looks like dying. They’re actually entering dormancy, which is quite unusual for a plant at such an early stage of development. After spending summer and winter as tiny dormant buds in the soil, they then emerge again the next spring. The first flowers usually come in the third year from sowing.

Time to see in flower: April-May

  • Dodecatheon Meadia, C T Johansson (CC BY 3.0)
    , C T Johansson (CC BY 3.0)

Castilleja integra, ‘wholeleaf Indian paintbrush’

Another from North America, this time from the south-west. Also, a slight tease as it isn’t in the display just yet. The reason for this is it’s a hemiparasitic plant that draws most of its nutrition from the roots of other plants which is tricky to establish in cultivation.

We’re currently growing this in the nursery by allowing it to attach itself to pots of Canadian fleabane. The plan is to introduce some pots like this into the display this autumn. We would allow the roots time to make contact with other plants in the display, then remove the fleabane once the Castilleja has established on other host plants.

It usually parasitizes grasses in the wild, so we’re hoping this preference will help wean it off its current dependence on the fleabane once we plant out.

Time to see in flower: June-September

  • Catilleja integra, Wikicommons (in public domain)
    , Wikicommons (in public domain)

Echinacea pallida, ‘pale purple coneflower’

This is one of the real stars of the North American section of the display. Echinacea purpurea, along with its hybrids, is more familiar in UK gardens but Echinacea pallida is a wonderful, strong-growing plant with pale pink, drooping petals. Slugs and snails are a problem with Echinaceas while they’re young so checking the sides and bottoms of pots was a regular job when we were growing these. As you can imagine, a few thousand pots squeezed together provided plenty of hiding places for hungry critters.

Time to see in flower: June-July

  • Purple Coneflower, SEWilco (CC BY 3.0)
    , SEWilco (CC BY 3.0)

Cotyledon orbiculata var dactylopsis, 'pig's ear'

This fleshy-leafed succulent from South Africa was one of the few plants we propagated from cuttings rather than seed. A few people have mistaken this for an Aloe in the display, presumably because of the long, tapering, fleshy leaf. Cotyledon orbiculata’s usual leaf form is actually ovate like its close relative, the popular houseplant Crassula ovata, the Jade plant. They are quite different though and we have a breed with cylindrical leaves, hence its variety name: dactylopsis meaning ‘looking like a finger’.

Time to see in flower: July-September

  •  Pig's Ear, Noodle snacks (CC BY-SA 2.5)
    , Noodle snacks (CC BY-SA 2.5)

Bulbinellaeburniflora, 'Bleekkatstert'

This beautiful, fleshy-rooted plant with striking white flower spikes occurs in the Renosterveld and Fynbos plant communities in South Africa. It is listed as vulnerable in the wild, where its habitat is threatened by agriculture and livestock grazing.

We produced ours from seed but got satisfactory germination only at the second attempt. It germinates naturally as temperatures cool after the summer heat. Our initial summer sowing produced very little but an early autumn sowing a few months later, with warmth during the day but cooler nights, brought a good number of seedlings.

As well as Bulbinella eburniflora we are growing plants of its relatives Bulbinella latifolia and Bulbinella nutans. All are currently growing on the nursery standing ground and should be introduced to the display in autumn or spring, another incentive to keep coming back to see this dynamic, changing display.

Time to see in flower: July-August

  • 800px-Bulbinella_latifolia_var._doleritica_0zz, David Stang (CC BY-SA 4.0-
    , David Stang (CC BY-SA 4.0-

Around the World in 80 Objects

To celebrate the opening of our new World Gallery we're using our Twitter to take you "Around the World in 80 objects". 

Every day on our Twitter for 80 days we'll be posting a new object that you can see in our World Gallery as we navigate a route around the world.

We'll take you over mountains, deserts, and oceans, as we plot a course that shows the global span of our Anthropology collection.

Having started right here in England, so far we've moved south through Europe and will soon be crossing to Africa. From there we'll sweep across Asia, go island-hopping through Oceania, and traverse the Americas, before swinging back around to Lewisham via the Arctic.

So join us as we follow in the footsteps of Phileas Fogg and celebrate human creativity, imagination, and adaptability around the world.

For now, enjoy our recap of our journey over the past six days.

Day One - Great Exhibition Fan

Our journey began here in London, with this fan made in 1851 to celebrate the opening of the Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park. The Great Exhibition was the first of a series of world fairs popular in the 19th century that inspired great minds including Charles Darwin and Charles Dickens.

Day Two - Napoleon's Pipe

A short hop over the English Chanel brought us to France to inspect a beautifully ornate pipe made of porcelain, silver, and amber that is said to have been smoked by Napoleon Bonaparte himself.

Day Three - Tree of Jesse

Crossing into the Alps of Switzerland, we shared this stunning carved ivory plaque depicting the Tree of Jesse.

Day Four - Snuff Box

Taking inspiration from the Grand Tour's of the past we moved down through Italy, inspecting this 19th century snuff box displaying some of Italy's most famous sights.

Day Five - Presepe

Presepi are a regular sight in Southern Italy at Christmastime. Presepi depict nativity scenes in miniature and often include humourous and ribald figures too, our Presepe includes some familiar faces.

Day Six - Mamuthones Costume

On to Sardinia, to inspect this Mamuthones costume. The Carnival of the Mamuthones dates back thousands of years and you can find out more in our new World Gallery.

World Gallery: Tattooed Memory

Temsuyanger Longkumer speaks to us about "Tattooed Memory", his incredible artwork that features in our new World Gallery in the Nagaland Encounter. 

Can you talk us through what 'Tattooed Memory' means to you?

Tattooed Memory is a memoir of growing up in a tribal community with a dual ethnicity.

My parents were from the Ao tribe in Nagaland. The Ao’s were among the first tribes in Nagaland to receive western education, which came along with Christianity.

After embracing Christianity my parents went on a missionary journey to the Konyak region, one of the most remote areas in Nagaland where they eventually settled and raised their family. My siblings and I were born and raised in the Konyak way of life, but we were also taught the ancestral customs of the Ao tribe through songs and stories.

The sculpture is a body cast I’ve made of myself. It displays a Konyak tribe’s facial tattoo and an Ao tribe’s Tsungkotepsü shawl. The tattoo and the shawl are both highly respected symbols of their respective tribes and something only great warriors and highly accomplished citizens are entitled to wear. When I was young I greatly admired the visuals and what they stood for and dreamt of one day achieving the same.

The sculpture also includes the landscapes I would explore as a child and a watchtower from where I would watch the world go by as part of the head. A memory-laden river takes the form of eyelashes which I have made from my own hair. They work their own down to meet the roots where it all began.

What do you find important to your creative process?

I find interactions of all kinds central to my creative process. Even the smallest conversation on a seemingly random issue can sometimes spark brilliant ideas. 

What mediums do you enjoy working in at the moment?

Currently, I’m enjoying working on a series which uses a multitude of mediums - painting, printmaking, and Claymation.

This group of works involves over-arching ideas relating to the human body as a microcosm of events in the universe. I am exploring the relationship between the microscopic world - the politics and diplomacy between neighbouring cells, the battles waged, fought, spread, repelled - to that of the external world outside of the skin.

What are the difficulties or challenges you encounter when creating artwork like this?

Apart from the technical difficulty of composing the varied materials into a coherent body, the main challenge in creating ‘Tattooed memory’ has been in finding a balance between an artistic interpretation and the darker side of the subject sometimes involved.

The practice of headhunting contributed largely to the exclusive rights to own the facial tattoo and the tsungkotepsü shawl, not to mention the influence it had on the vast array of artistic expressions in the forms of dance, songs, sculptures and architectural designs.

The new World Gallery has as a strapline, ‘what it means to be human’. What does being human mean to you?

Being human, to me, is to live and partake in life with empathy, to the best of one's ability, and the fact that we ask ourselves "what it means to be human" is what makes us human.

What is one thing you believe we all share as humans?

Possibility.

Previous Next
of 27 items