On possibly the wettest August day of the year I headed out to explore the Horniman Museum and Gardens. It’s been on my list of places to visit for a while as it’s relatively unknown outside of London. (Possibly in London too!)
It houses an eclectic mix of displays that focus on natural history (including an aquarium), world cultures and musical instruments.
The Museum and gardens are free, although there is a small charge to visit the aquarium. The Museum was founded by Frederick Horniman, a Victorian tea trader who began collecting objects from his travels around 1860. He had so many that he eventually opened a museum in 1890. That moved to the current site in 1898 and was opened to the public in 1901, and Horniman donated the buildings, collection and gardens as a free gift to the people of London.
I started my visit in the Natural History Gallery where I was impressed by the taxidermy on display (not always my favourite aspect of a museum) and the skeletons, which included many cross-sections of animal brains and other organs. The gallery on the balcony above also houses a geological timeline of British fossils, some of which are quite rare.
I then moved on to the African Worlds Gallery which I found really interesting and full of objects from right across Africa. Some of my favourite pieces from this gallery were these examples of Bronze art from Nigeria which date from around 1550…
…and these Nigerian Ibibio Cement sculptures which were made to honour the dead.
From here I moved on to the Aquarium which, although small with only 15 exhibits, housed some lovely creatures. My favourites were the seahorses, though they proved impossible to photograph, and these jellyfish which I did just about manage to capture…
…and this fluorescent coral which came out even better than I had expected.
The next section was the music gallery, containing over 1300 musical instruments and which was only opened to the public in January of this year.
It was a really amazing collection of instruments which traced the design history of many of the familiar instruments we know today from their more unusual looking origins.
The final stop inside the museum was in the Centenary Gallery, which showcases items from throughout the world and which have been part of the Horniman Collection for over 100 years.
The gardens to the museum have some interesting highlights as well, including live animals, and they will be the feature of the next post. In the meantime you can see more photos of the inside and of the gardens, here. Absolutely worth a visit.