I was recently prompted to pay a long overdue visit to the Horniman Museum, round in Forest Hill, south east London. So last Sunday morning Oliver and I set off for the day.
Wow, it had changed incredibly since my last visit, back in the days when I was working on plant uses in the Centre for Economic Botany at Kew (my first job at Kew). With brand new galleries, a new aquarium, and the temporary travelling exhibition Myths and Monsters (from the Natural History Museum team) it proved to be a great day out.
Even the old natural history galleries, where one is rather fittingly invited to ‘step back in time’, provided some engaging displays; for examples skeletons of apes and early man, together with moulds of brain sizes, give a stark reminder of how we have evolved. Somehow these rather erudite displays seem suitably complemented by the over-stuffed walrus
which takes pride of place in the middle of the gallery.
At the Horniman the theme of culture is a constant one, and we found ourselves watching videos of brass shields being made in Benin, looking at mummies from Egypt, and gazing at the most amazing displays packed full of musical instruments of all shapes and sizes (with a nice little side room where you can try some out, though not the expensive guitars, much to Oliver’s disappointment!).
I shouldn’t forget the gardens. It was hardly the best time of the year to visit a garden, nor was the weather on our side, but it’s good to see that they have just got nearly a million pounds of Lottery money to carry out an extensive refurbishment, including rebuilding the bandstand (from where you get amazing views looking north over central London).
He’d hate me for saying this, but whether it was the stepping back in time, the change in surroundings, or simply a rare chance for us to spend one-on-one time together, Oliver was transformed from ’12 year old going on 18′ into the studious scholar, to the point where half the time he was telling me what things were!
Just goes to show the power of museums of all shapes and sizes, and you don’t get much wider a range of exhibit than the Horniman – well worth a visit, with a wide appeal to everyone.