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The new World Gallery at the Horniman Museum and Gardens
The new World Gallery at the Horniman Museum and Gardens | Photo: Sarah Duncan
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Horniman Museum Open a New World Gallery

Picture of Freire Barnes
Art & Design Editor
Updated: 9 August 2018
On the 117th anniversary of the Horniman Museum and Gardens’ opening in Forest Hill, South London, the museum will unveil their new World Gallery on June 29, 2018.

The Victorian tea trader, Frederick Horniman had a love of all things anthropological. During his extensive travels to Sri Lanka, Burma, China, Japan, Egypt, Canada and the United States he collected many objects and specimens ‘illustrating natural history and the arts and handicrafts of various peoples of the world’.

Wanting to enrich the lives of his local community and ‘to bring the world to Forest Hill’ he put his staggering collection of artefacts on public display, eventually opening a dedicated museum designed by Charles Harrison Townsend in 1901.

The historic South Hall displays, [early 20th century]
The historic South Hall displays from the 20th century | Courtesy of Horniman Museum and Gardens

The ethos of this free gift to the people continues today. The collection of international curiosities has grown to 350,000 objects, covering everything from music to natural history, including its 130-year-old walrus.

The Horniman Museum even has it’s own aquarium and Butterfly House and is set within 16 acres of green space that include dye and medicinal gardens, and an animal walk.

Horniman Clocktower | Photo: Sophia Spring

Brining Horniman’s ‘wider mission to encourage appreciation of the world, its peoples and their cultures, and its environments’ into the 21st century, the historic South Hall has been revamped to house over 3,000 objects in a contemporary gallery layout.

Here in the World Gallery, the lives of ordinary people and everyday activities become paramount. Objects telling the stories of what it means to be human reveal rituals of indigenous people, religious beliefs from around the globe and our connection to the environment, as well as highlighting contemporary issues from climate change to migration.

To give context to the displays, the World Gallery will be separated into four interconnected spaces. The Introductory area will reveal the emotional and cultural importance of objects; Encounters will focus on the way people live in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Oceania and Europe; Perspectives explores what anthropology is and how we categorise the world around us and Horniman’s Vision gives an overview of the museum and its founder.

World Gallery at the Horniman Museum and Gardens. Photo by Sarah Duncan (2)
View of new World Gallery at the Horniman Museum | Photo: Sarah Duncan

You’ll be able to discover aboriginal paintings that pay homage to the revitalising wet seasons. See a fishing canoe from the Solomon Islands. Take fashion inspiration from Polish folk costumes. Imagine what it would be like to use a Chilkat blanket from the Pacific Northwest Coast that is woven from mountain goat wool and cedar bark. Or learn about the artefacts used in wedding and funeral ceremonial rituals.

There will also be multi-sensory interactive exhibits that will no doubt entertain and fascinate the younger museum visitor.

Here are our highlights of this intriguing collection.

Interactive Lagos Market Stall – Nigeria

Lagos-based photographer Jide Odukoya captured one of the largest street markets in Nigeria especially for the World Gallery. His film and photography of the Eko Market has inspired an interactive display that brings the hustle and bustle of the market which supplies shoppers with all manner of items to Forest Hill.

Eko Market, Lagos, Nigeria 2016. Credit- Jide Odukoya
Eko Market, Lagos, Nigeria 2016, the inspiration behind an interactive display | Photo: Jide Odukoya

Hair Tubes – Waiwai, Guianas

Müisó (hair tubes) are only worn by Waiwai men and boys who live in Guyana and northern Brazil as a way of asserting their masculinity. The hair ornaments are made from bamboo that’s decorated with beads and feathers, the latter reflecting how the Waiwai people consider themselves to be like birds.

Hairtubes - Encounters, America, Waiwai
Hairtubes worn by the Waiwai | Courtesy of Horniman Museum and Gardens

Nang Talung puppets – Thailand

The Nang Talung shadow puppets come from the south of Thailand and are used to tell the Ramakien story which dates from the Thai royal court of the 18th century. Through characters that include the hero Phra Ram, a monkey Hanuman, farmers, clowns and ghosts, the story is an allegory on evil being triumphed over by good.

Nang Talung puppets - Thailand copy
Nang Talung puppets | Courtesy of Horniman Museum and Gardens

Story bags and Ghostnet Baskets – Australia

Beach pollution is a major environmental issue that massively impacts the lives of indigenous Australians who have a spiritual appreciation and relationship to Country. This story bag from Queensland is made from recycled plastic wrappers and illustrates how recycling can carry a message, but also be creative.

A story bag from Queensland
A story bag from Queensland | Courtesy of Horniman Museum and Gardens

The prow of Boat 195 – Italy and the Mediterranean

This display of painted wood is a potent symbol of the ongoing migration crisis around the world as it’s actually the bow of a boat that carried 253 people from Libya who were all seeking refuge in the EU. The Horniman acquired it so the story of people who make the treacherous Mediterranean crossing could be told.

A section of the prow of Boat 195, which set off from Libya carrying 253 people, who were all rescued off the coast of Sicily on 17 August 2013
The prow of Boat 195 | Courtesy of Horniman Museum and Gardens

Horniman Museum & Gardens New World Gallery opens June 29, 2018.

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