Showing posts with label Horniman Museum. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Horniman Museum. Show all posts

Friday, 14 August 2015

Four kids go to the Horniman Museum

What to do in the summer holidays?
Especially when your mum is working. Well firstly, have friends over, prevents boredom and therefore lessens the potential for squabbling, then perhaps go out. So we organised for a friend each to come over and a trip to the Horniman Museum, where I was working that afternoon in the Discovery For All session in the Hands-on Base.

The Hands-on Base in the Horniman Museum is exactly what it says it is. A gallery full of objects to touch. I armed the kids with a camera and was intrigued to find out what they got up to, what they looked at and and what exactly captured their imagination.

They began with the 'Teeth' Discovery Box.

Silver teeth.

Fossilised teeth, a mammoth's.

Wooden teeth.

Photo opportunity teeth.
Everyone does this with the shark's jaw.

Next the 'Toys' Discovery Box.

Toys from recycled materials.

As a student I remember playing Mancala but have long since forgotten the rules.
However, another family hadn't forgotten and they taught my kids how to play. They sat and played Mancala for ages, two groups of visitors who hadn't met before. I love that! 

This wasn't their only opportunity to meet and interact with other visitors. The Puffer fish often draws people together.  

We learn from a family from Ecuador that in Spanish it is called a "balloon fish". "Cool!"

They swap the camera and take photos of each other.

 They listen,

...perform, on their own,


... dance,

...and wonder how long this snake would had been were the head and tail still attached.

  Of course a museum visit is not all about the objects.

"Mum, mum, I got to show you something."
"What's this doing here?"

They have expectations of what should be included in museum collections. And plastic halloween masks are not one of them.

The Hands-on Base is only open for the 'Discovery For All' sessions which are Sunday mornings and some afternoons in the school holidays.
Details on the Horniman Museum website, here.

Thanks to Miriam, Tom, Naomi and Roman for the photos and providing even more evidence that museums are not "boring".

Friday, 20 February 2015

...a bit like a Chocolate Orange

The opportunity to get objects out of the cabinets in the Hands-on Base
in the Horniman Museum is irresistible to most visitors,
Kids and adults alike.
"Can I have a go with those wind instruments?"

Knowing that I couldn't let him, for health and safety reasons,
(imagine how many people would have put their lips to that flute, if we had let them)
I tried to distract him with these East African Thumb Pianos made with gourds.
They make a brilliant sound.

It didn't work, he wasn't interested,
"OK. Quite cool",
...not until this caught his eye, a shaker made from Brazil nuts.

The sound it made was really quite amazing,
surprisingly whooshy, "awesome" and not clinky.
He's impressed and having a good time.

I remember something and ask him, "Do you know how Brazil Nuts grow?"
We head over to another cabinet.

"In a pod, a bit like a Chocolate Orange."
As I said this, I remembered that I had a Chocolate Orange at home,
in the bottom of my wardrobe, an un-needed Christmas present.

He goes and gets his wife and daughter to show them too.
It seems to have captured their imagination.
I then send them off to the Natural History Gallery to check out the Agouti,
"the only creature apart from us, who can get into a Brazil Nut Pod".

I expect large teeth, but am surprised by the whiskers.

I love the blue background.
I think I'll add this to my collection of photos of museum walls,
along with the yellow behind Chi Chi the Giant Panda which you can read about, here.

At home I find that Chocolate Orange,

 and tell my family all about how Brazil nuts grow.

I should have perhaps shared my chocolate orange, all in the name of learning in museums,
but food and drink are not allowed in the galleries, it encourages pests.

Discovery for All at the Horniman Museum is every Sunday morning in the Hands-on Base.
Details on the website, here.
Chocolate Oranges best left at home.

Friday, 12 December 2014

The Ostrich Egg

in the Discovery for All sessions on a Sunday morning
we are allowed to get objects out of the cabinets for visitors.

Allowing people to handle objects,
touch them, look at them from every angle, feel the weight of them
and probably most importantly encourage more talk about them
than if they were just sat behind glass.

There are the usual objects that capture the public's imagination
I'm always asked to get these things out.
With the object most asked for being the Puffer-fish,
a dried out, hollow, very spikey, puffed up puffer-fish.

Then there are the objects that people hardly ever notice.
In museums these are called 'silent objects',
the less conspicuous objects.
Such as the Ostrich Egg.
Asked for today by a family of five.

It was cold, it was white (ish), covered in tiny dots, "like an orange"
and felt much less fragile than you would have thought.

Kid: "What's inside? Is there a chick inside?"

Mum: "No, it's like our eggs, you know, with a yolk."

Kid: "Why is there a hole in the end"

Me: "That's to get what's inside out. Like blowing eggs."

Mum: "I wonder how many pancakes you can make using that egg?
Between these lot, they have about four each,
I make pancakes every Sunday morning."

I comment on how nice this is, try and cadge an invite.

"Nice for them, I've got to get up and make them,
and do the washing up too."
Mum is smiling, it obviously is a much loved family tradition.

As for what gives 'silent objects' a voice?
Well in this case, breakfast.

I sent them off to the natural history gallery to double check it was an Ostrich Egg.

You can see the holes,
must have needed quite a bit of puff to blow those eggs.

Sometimes though, you get a chick.

Discovery for All is in the Hands On Base in the Horniman Museum
every Sunday and sometimes in the school holidays.
Details on their website here.

If you're interested in my posts on those 'loud' objects, the ones that get noticed most often,
and would like to see more of whats in the Hands on Base in the Horniman Museum,
here are the links:

Friday, 18 July 2014

Taxidermy Tales

There's nothing like taxidermy, and sometimes models of animals,
for creating opportunities to talk with visitors in museums.
I know I love to chat, and talk to visitors, helping them to engage with objects in museums,
but sometimes all you need is a stuffed animal and they're off,
sharing their own experiences with these animals outside the museum.

Taxidermy in the Horniman Museum seems to bring out the storyteller
in the Great British public.

Like the couple, "not from London"
who had Grass snakes mating in their garden.
"They were there for hours. Entwined.
They were still there when we came back from the shops."

Then there was the woman who put her coat on to go out,
 put her hand in her pocket and pulled out a live mouse.

Then there was the lady, and you couldn't tell by looking at her,
who had had enough, she was pee'd off (I use that word advisedly)
with the badgers digging up her garden.

So when they began burrowing into the foundations of her house,
she took matters into her own hands, it was time to act.
She knew exactly what to do.
She wee'd in the hole they were digging.
"At night of course. They never came back!"

Then there's my favourite story, in a previous blog-post.
About the teenager who wasn't terribly complimentary about her brother's girlfriend.

On further reflection, it may have been a compliment.
It depends what you think of Pekinese.

Why not visit the Horniman Museum and see if the stuffed animals in the
Natural History Gallery.
It may inspire you to tell a tale or two.

Details on their website here.

Saturday, 24 May 2014


Answering a question with another question can be really frustrating, especially when people do it to avoid answering one.

Topeng Jauk Mask, Bali, Indonesia

However in museums, it can help kids work out and discover things for themselves. Help them to 'get it', to answer the questions they ask in the first instance.

Cham Mask, Tibet

When I was asked by some kids what this blue mask above was made of, we took at look at the back.

"Have you ever broken a bone?"
"Oh yeah!!! It's like the bandages they put on you in hospital."

It was indeed made of fabric and plaster.
"So you mustn't get it wet." I was advised by a well-informed child.

Topeng Sidar Mask, Bali, Indonesia

I don't know what he's finding so funny!

Ogre Mask, Java, Indonesia

Do you ever look at the back to see what something is made of?

This half-term you can check out theses masks.
And touch them, they are not behind glass.
They are in the Hands-on Base in the Horniman Museum. Find out for yourself what they are made of in the handling sessions, Discovery For All, on Sundays and in the school holidays. For opening times and more details, check out their website here.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Presenting dolls from around the world, but nothing for the One Direction fan.

"I love dolls", began our conversation, between myself and a nine year old visitor.

So I showed her this cabinet in the Horniman Museum
Raffia Doll & Stick, Zambia, Africa
 "Oh, they're so cute."
"What! even that one." I'm not sure I should have passed judgement.
Cute isn't a word, I'd have used.

"That looks like Snow-White."
 I can see where she's coming from.
North America


 "I love the colours and the pattern. Look at her hair, it looks really beautiful."
"You could try doing your hair like that at home", I suggested.
"Oh but I've only bought five bobbles with me."

She told me all about visiting her Aunt and Uncle in South East London for the school holidays and she hadn't packed the kind of hair accessories needed to replicate this Japanese doll's hairstyle.


 But she wouldn't have minded borrowing these shoes to try on her dolls at home.

We had a great chat about dolls.

That conversation progressed a lot further than the teenager who put me firmly in my place, halting any attempt I made to help her to engage with the collection.
Me, keenly, "What are you interested in?"
She cut me dead with, "One Direction", oh, and a grunt.
There wasn't anywhere I could go with that reply. There are no One Direction dolls in the Horniman Museum, although I believe they do exist.

All the dolls pictured above can be found in the Horniman Museum's Hands-on Base, Discovery For All session, open Sundays.
Details on their website here. 
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