One of my favorite aspects of London is the multitude of quality museums that are free to the public. I have been visiting them nonstop since my arrival, and I feel like I have seen and learned about more things than I have in the past couple years of school. Today I visited the Horniman Museum & Gardens, and, despite spending several hours there, I regret not allocating a larger part of my day towards my visit.
I had taken a brief glance at the Horniman Museum’s website, and I had a vague idea of what I would be experiencing. I saw that there is an aquarium, which I found both surprising and exciting, and also a museum and garden. What I didn’t expect was the size of the place, and I quickly realized that I would have to set a good pace if I wanted to see everything.
After grabbing a quick bite to eat at the cafe, I headed straight to the aquarium. This was the only exhibit with a fee, but for a mere two and a half pounds I didn’t mind paying, and I wasn’t disappointed. There were plenty of types of fish and coral to see from many different habitats. There were also newts, frogs, and toads living in lush, green tanks. I particularly enjoyed the moon jellyfish tank, which gave me a close up view of dozens of jellyfish drifting through the water. I was able to learn a lot about the different species through the accompanying text.
I then went to view other animals that weren’t quite as lively. The museum has a Natural History Gallery with hundreds of stuffed and model animals ranging from parrots to walruses. I spent a good deal of time learning at the human evolution section. Each period of human evolution is accompanied by skulls and bones (real and model) that heightened my understanding of the variations in the stages of human evolution.
After leaving the Natural History Gallery, I headed downstairs and realized that my stay at the museum had just begun. There were four more galleries downstairs, and I chose to visit the African Worlds Gallery first. In there I found sarcophagi from Egypt, grand tribal masks from all over Africa, contemporary African art, and more.
The Music Gallery featured rows of instruments of nearly all types, time periods, and cultures. The temporary exhibition gallery held The Body Adorned: Dressing London exhibit, which showed how people of different cultures dress and how it represents their way of life. The Centenary Gallery had a wide range of artifacts. One of the more disturbing artifacts was the Spanish torture chair, and after seeing it I was ready to go outside for some fresh air.
The Horniman Museum has an impressive garden. There is a massive meadow field down the hill from the museum where people were walking their dogs. Above that were gardens with all sorts of plants divided neatly into categories. There was a food garden, a medicinal garden, a material and fiber garden, and the sunken garden. I loved being able to see all of the different plants that I hear of and use on a daily basis, and the plaques provided additional information that told me all about them. I couldn’t help but take a moment to relax on a nearby bench and enjoy the surprisingly nice weather.
It wasn’t long before I heard the Sound Garden in use. The sound of the Chime Run grabbed my attention and pulled me uphill where I saw a couple drumming away on a set of chimes, trying their best to play a familiar song.
I couldn’t help but grab a drumstick and give it a go. I started with the Xylophone Wall, then moved onto the Drainpipe Drums, and when the couple left the Chime Run I moved to that station. I got a bit caught in the moment trying to ring out different songs. I stayed there for quite a while playing all of the different instruments they had. It was one of the most enjoyable aspects of the Horniman Museum & Gardens.
I can’t do justice to the size and collection of the Horniman Museum & Gardens in an article of this length. I would highly recommend seeing it for yourself. There are all sorts of things to see and learn, and the garden is a wonderful place to relax. Just make sure to provide yourself with plenty of time, because, trust me, you will need it if you want to fully appreciate everything it has to offer.
Horniman Museum & Gardens: http://www.horniman.ac.uk/
Current Exhibition until 6 January 2013: The Body Adorned: Dressing London
Make sure to check the Horniman Museum & Gardens’ website for a list of events.