Behind the Scenes at the Horniman Museum- 04.12.12
The latest dose of natural inspiration from our resident zoologist and London-based editor, Justine Aw.
I am privileged to give you a glimpse behind the scenes at the Horniman Museum. I’ve been volunteering behind the scenes with the Horniman’s natural history department for the better part of a year now and never cease to be amazed by the depth of the collections that extends far beyond the specimens on display to the public.
For those not familiar with the museum, the Horniman is a true South London gem that combines stunning gardens with an outstanding range of collections including anthropological artifacts, musical instruments, natural history collection and aquarium. Though it seems to be missed off the typical London museum list, it’s definitely worth a trip south of the river. Where else can you find so many incredible collections under one (architecturally gorgeous) roof? But I digress! today’s look at the Horniman isn’t about the parts typically on display to the public (though you should definitely check them out). instead, it’s a glimpse at the Horniman’s off-site Study Collections Centre, which is only occasionally open to members of the public during tours, but a place I’m lucky enough to get to work! Take a peek through loads of pictures behind the scenes on the next page!
The entire building is filled to the rafters with a wide range of artifacts from across the collections, but I can’t hide my zoological bias, so here is a look at some of the incredible natural history collections.
Part of my work at the museum has been helping to get a huge number of objects ready to become part of an ambitious and impressive project to get the collections online. Though currently only in beta, visitors will be able to access the collections online via the Horniman’s collections page. So watch that space to discover more of the treasures of the collection! And in the meantime, bone lovers can check out curator and deputy keeper, Paolo Viscardi’s fantastic blog Zygoma.
The wall of horns makes for a stunning display, but is also a useful storage solution for otherwise unwieldy specimens. Within the shelving, boxes of all shapes and sizes are home to a vast collection.
There are lots of striking specimens among the stores, like this split mounted dog, offering a look at the animal’s skeleton as well as its exterior. This style of taxidermy can also be seen in the Horniman’s natural history galleries.
The skeletal mounts come in all shapes, sizes and poses.
Specimens range widely in size, from this massive portion of an elephant’s skull to the more delicate chameleon.
Not all specimens are mounted either, here are an array of crania and mandibles from a number of felids.
This photo gives just a glimpse at the wide range of specimens! There are finches in bell jars to the bottom left, and the two tall pillars behind are actually a pair of ostrich legs! And the eerie hooklike structure on the top of the right shelf? That’s the arm of a sloth!
Mounted birds of all species carefully stored behind protective sheeting.
A songbird in a bell jar and variety of taxidermic specimens.
The drawers are filled with eggs and the preserved skins of birds and small mammals, valuable study specimens collected over hundreds of years.