A Good Museum

“We’ve been open since Victorian times, when Frederick John Horniman first opened his house and extraordinary collection of objects to visitors. Since then, our collection has grown tenfold and includes internationally important collections of anthropology and musical instruments, as well as an acclaimed aquarium and natural history collection. Unusually for such an important museum, you can see our collection up-close and face-to-face. You can even pick up, try on and play with some of our objects. Our visitors come time and again to explore our free museum, take part in our activities and enjoy our 16-acre gardens. And they discover something fascinating and mesmerising every time.”

I love a trendy exhibition and a flash interactive as much as anyone, but there is something so quaint and wonderful about a good museum in the way a museum is stereotyped to be.

The Horniman Museum and Gardens were formally opened to the public on 29 June 1901, with Frederick John Horniman’s, the Victorian tea trader and philanthropist, prized collections. While I love living in South London, I’d be the first to admit that there isn’t an enormous amount of museums. Most of my days off are spent the other side of the river. The Horniman Museum and Gardens are a welcome addition to south of the river, and one I’m delighted to live near-ish.

Taxidermy behind glass cases have a bit of stereotype of being stuffy and dull, not that I could ever think that, of course. But Horniman do it well. The Natural History Gallery first opened in 1901, and has on display the expected skeletons, species in jars, and taxidermy, with the looming giant 100 year old walrus taking center stage. How Horniman manage to steer away from the stuffy and dull stereotype, for me, is context. Each case and display is there to depict a certain story, be that classification, adaptation, or evolution. These stories are further brought to life with the Hands on Base Gallery, with real objects to handle and even wear.

Of course, the stunning gardens are a highlight to the museum, 16 acres worth! Even hosting a Horniman Farmers’ Market every Saturday. Basically, any museum that (ethically) has live animals, is a winner for me. The Horniman Museum has an ‘Animal Walk’ that keeps alpacas, goats, sheep, guinea pigs, rabbits, chickens.

I didn’t get chance to see Robot Zoo, and perhaps even if I did, I’d be slightly shy to visit without a child? But, from what I can tell from the marketing materials about it, it sounds brilliant. Have you been?

“This family-friendly exhibition features larger-than-life animals that have been innovatively recreated using a variety of familiar machine parts and gadgets to reveal how their real life counterparts see, eat, hunt and hide. Interactive exhibits also give you the chance to try jet-propelled squid racing, shoot a chameleon’s ‘tongue-gun’ and even design your own ‘mutant’ robot creature.”

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