The Horniman Museum - CHS Rentals
The Horniman Museum
by Cedric

The Horniman Museum is located at Forest Hill, South London. It has extensive collections of anthropology, natural history and musical instruments. The museum also hosts a variety of special exhibitions, concerts, festivals, shows, workshops and activities.

The museum is set in 16 acres (65,000 m²) of gardens, which include the following features:-

  • A Grade II listed conservatory from 1894 which was moved from Horniman’s family house in Croydon to the present site in the 1980s.
  • A bandstand from 1912
  • An enclosure for small animals
  • A nature trail
  • An ornamental garden
  • Plants for materials, medicines; foods and dyes
  • A sound garden with large musical instruments for playing
  • A new building, the Pavilion, for working on materials that are outside of the collections, such as from the gardens.

The Horniman Museum was commissioned in 1898 by Frederick John Horniman. Frederick had inherited his father’s Horniman’s Tea business, which by 1891 had become the world’s biggest tea trading business. It was designed by Charles Harrison Townsend in the Arts and Crafts style and opened in 1901. The cash from the business allowed Horniman to indulge his lifelong passion for collecting and after extensive travel he had some 30,000 items in his various collections. In 1911 an additional building to the west of the main building, originally containing a lecture hall and library, was donated by Frederick Horniman’s son Emslie Horniman. This was also designed by Townsend.

The Horniman now has a collection of some 350,000 exhibits. The ethnography and music collections have Designated Status meaning that they are of outstanding significance. One of the museum’s most famous collections is that of stuffed animals. It also has a noted aquarium.

On the front facade of the main building is a neoclassical mosaic mural entitled Humanity in the House of Circumstance, designed by Robert Anning Bell and assembled by a group of young women over the course of 210 days. Composed of more than 117,000 individual tesserae, it measures 10 feet by 32 feet and symbolises personal aspirations and limitations.

A 20-foot (6.1 m) red cedar totem pole stands outside the museum’s main entrance. It was carved in 1985 as part of the American Arts Festival by Nathan Jackson, a native Alaskan. The carvings on the pole depict figures from Alaskan legend of a girl who married a bear, with an eagle (Jackson’s clan crest) at the top. The pole is one of only a handful of totem poles in the United Kingdom.

The Horniman Museum contains the CUE building (Centre for Understanding the Environment), which opened in 1996. Designed by local architects Archetype using methods developed by Walter Segal, the building has a grass roof and was constructed from sustainable materials. It also incorporates passive ventilation.

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