Forest Hill’s Horniman Museum

April 2, 2012

London Sights

As promised a few weeks ago I managed to make it over to the Horniman Museum during the weekend.

The museum sits perched high up on the hill with a commanding view over central London, and the main building is really striking as it combines Art Noveau with the British Arts & Crafts style in a way that I’ve not seen before – it’s quite breathtaking in fact.

horniman museum london

The fun actually starts before you enter the museum proper – the extensive Gardens which sit around the museum contain several modern sculptures, there’s what appears to be an authentic native American totem pole, and the area around the museum’s entrance contains several sundails dotted about amongst the plantings. There’s also a hothouse, conveniently located close to the cafe so you can pop out there and sip your tea amongst the potted palms…

horniman hothouse

Entering through the new ecologically friendly building that now sits on the side of the museum, the first thing you will come across is the ground floor of the Natural History gallery which occupies one of the original vaulted halls. This one’s not for the squeamish because it contains possibly the largest taxidermy collection in the world – all of nature is here, straw-stuffed and glassy-eyed. Notable amongst the glass cases are two that face each other, one containing examples of primates including the ape, the orangutan and so on while the other shows the same specimens stripped down to their skeletons – it makes for rather uncomfortable viewing! On the upper balcony of this hall you’ll find the external walls covered with a family tree of the animal world, with small exhibits arranged into their respective phylums, classes, orders and so on.  On the inner side of the balcony are many cases containing literally thousands of examples of the fossilised remains of earlier species.

You’ll be pleased to note that the opposite gallery is a light relief in comparison to those rather morbid displays, with the ground floor being dedicated to the colourful traditions of Africa. There are masks, shields, spears, early musical instruments and most interesting of all in my opinion, two ornate altars dedicated to the practice of voudoun (or voodoo) which is still commonplace today in countries such as Haiti. The first floor explores some of our own tribal traditions, with a photo gallery of the work of Sarah Hannant. ‘Mummers, Maypoles and Milkmaids’ takes a wry look at the green men, straw effigies and the Morris dancers who continue some of our ancient country practices.

I won’t spoil your own visit by spelling out all of the surprises in store if you visit the Horniman Museum, but you must check out the Music Gallery and the new exhibition, ‘The Body Adorned: Dressing London’ which you access from the new building. They’re both amazing in their own way, and the objects on display in the latter are a real eye-opener – I really do feel for the plight of the young boys of Uzbekistan, even if they do get to wear the most fetching sparkly jackets for their pains!

As it’s one of our smaller national museums entrance to the Horniman Museum is free (with the exception of the basement Aquarium) and you can also follow them on Twitter and Facebook. They may have more than a few dusty fossils but these guys are very 21st century…

About The Londoneer

Pete Stean is a keen blogger, amateur photographer, singer and ham radio enthusiast in his spare time... Google+

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2 Responses to “Forest Hill’s Horniman Museum”

  1. Henry Says:

    Looks like it was a very worthwhile trip in the end Pete!
    Henry recently posted..Art Licks – Hackney Tour


    • The Londoneer Says:

      Yes the museum was lovely, and a bit creepy :) I’m particularly impressed with the building – it combines my two favourite architectural styles…


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