Horniman Museum & Gardens, London, England

Posted on May 28, 2012 by


If there is one thing I’m learning from this blog it’s that there are plenty of exhilarating museums and galleries in the world. So far, this is the best one I’ve been to… The Horniman Museum is a little outside of central London at Forest Hill well and worth the journey.

The history of the museum itself is intriguing. Frederick Horniman began collecting in 1860 and wanted to the bring treasures from around the world to his community, to enrich and educate. The museum pictured above was built to house the collection after his wife purportedly said ‘either the collection goes or we do’. Charles Harrison Townsend designed this unusual building in the Art Nouveau style, it seems appropriate for what will be found within.

So the museum was officially opened in 1901 with the quest to ‘illustrate the evolution of culture’, and for me, it did. There is so much to see at the museum and this post will only touch on it, here goes.

We started in the ‘Hands on Base’ where we were encouraged to play with thousands of items. I particularly enjoyed prancing around with this mask on, there were loads to try on and I’ll add more pictures to our Pinterest. The objects all had descriptions so we were learning but for me the interactive approach is the best way to excite both children and (h-hm) adults.

The puppet collection was extensive and there was space to create your own little show. The variety, colours and ethnicities were impressive. Why woud we ever want to leave this room I hear you ask? Well…

The sound of drumming in the distance drew us out. The interior of the museum looks down onto a square space ideal for small gatherings and we were in luck. There were some fantastic African drummers and dancers performing.

They had all the moves… I was copying them in my head but they were so well rehearsed I had no chance of replicating them!

And so onwards to a creature I find it easier to imitate. The infamous giant Walrus! My friend had told me about the museum and this is the exhibit that had stuck in her mind, it’s easy to see why. The story of the Walrus goes like this – it was brought back from Canada in 1870 and was given to a taxidermist who’d never seen a walrus, so he proceeded to stuff it til it was full, not realising  its skin would have sagged. Hilarious, you need to go and see how big this guy it, it reminds me of something from Jason and the Argonauts.

The Natural History displays are wonderful, there’s taxidermy, skeletons and fossils, the wooden casings just look historic.

The Music Gallery has an extensive collection of instruments alongside displays examining how they are developed and the use of music in various cultures.

The African Worlds exhibit is unbelievably colourful, there are all sorts of displays including sculpture and decorative arts. Of course everybody loves a mummy…

There is a photography exhibition on until September 2012 depicting some of the more bizarre traditional rituals performed throughout the UK. Mummers, Maypoles and Milkmaids by Sara Hannant contains images I wouldn’t even dream of, it instantly made me wonder how much I knew about my own country.

The Centenary Gallery is not pictured but has items that have been collected from all over the world, including those brought to Forest Hill by Frederick Horniman. They’re arranged in an informative and entertaining way which tells a story of how these items have been viewed through the ages.

Just to top it all off there is an Aquarium! Lovely fishes, it always helps me to relax watching them have a little swim around. Its so family friendly too, I love it when children are having a great and there is nothing for them to complain about here…

If you are in the nearby area… JUST GO!!!

Entry Fee: FREE for museum, Aquarium £6 for adults

Location: 100 London Road, Forest Hill, London, SE23 3PQ

There is a comprehensive events calendar so be sure to check it out.