I have discovered a new favourite museum! Hidden away in Forest Hill, South London is a late-Victorian gem – The Horniman Museum.
Founded in 1901 by Victorian tea trader Frederick John Horniman, the museum contains an eclectic mix of displays including natural history, ethnology and musical instruments. The original building was designed in the Arts and Crafts style by Charles Harrison Townsend who also designed an extension opened in 1912. New buildings were again added in the 1990’s, including a grass-roofed Centre for Understanding the Environment.
This is a very traditional museum with many of the natural history exhibits being slightly faded examples of the taxidermist’s art, but they are a major part the place’s charm. Other display cases contain particularly good educational explanations.
The museum has a vast collection of musical instruments, from ancient to modern, with many beautiful specimens.
One of the delights of the Horniman is it’s freedom from the modern “sanitised” display aesthetic. Many of the ethnographic displays are housed in dark old wooden cabinets, often with an eccentric mix of items displayed side by side.