Opening to the public on 29 June 2018, the same day on which the museum first opened 117 years ago in 1901
The new gallery will provide a beautiful and contemporary setting for its world-class anthropology collection, with over 3,000 objects telling stories from around the world and exploring what it means to be human. Occupying one half of the Horniman’s original building in Forest Hill, South London, the World Gallery is the culmination of more than five years’ work to transform this historic gallery and recapture the light and spirit of the Horniman when it first opened on 29 June 1901.
Over 100 years later, the World Gallery will be an enriching addition to London, fulfilling Frederick Horniman’s ambition ‘to bring the world to Forest Hill’. Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the gallery is part of the Horniman Museum and Gardens’ wider mission to encourage appreciation of the world, its peoples and their cultures, and its environments.
Showcasing selected new acquisitions alongside magnificent objects from the Horniman’s existing collection – many of which will go on display for the first time in a generation – the gallery will show some of the ways that ordinary people live their lives and make their way in the world we all share. The gallery also includes stories about contemporary issues such as climate change, migration and displacement.
The gallery was developed by the Horniman’s anthropology curators in collaboration with over 200 people from its community networks including local groups, arts organisations, community leaders, international museums, academic partners and representatives of some of those who made and used the objects in the collections.
The World Gallery will be divided into four interconnected spaces: an Introductory area, Encounters, Perspectives and Horniman’s Vision, completed with a beautiful display of kites and banners hanging from the newly renovated ceiling vault.
The Introductory area introduces the ways in which objects connect people, and the powerful emotions they can evoke. A series of audio-visual digital installations feature people from the Horniman’s community groups, volunteers, spiritual leaders, collectors and anthropologists talking about objects of personal meaning to them. These films, presented alongside a display of objects selected for their emotional resonance, will encourage visitors to reflect on objects that hold meaning in their own lives.
Encounters will present examples of ways of living from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Oceania and Europe, representing some of the Horniman’s strongest collections. They will explore what it means to live a human life in different times and places. Objects scan from the prow of a Libyan refugee boat, a Tuareg camel saddle, Chinese paper offerings, a Native American tomahawk and a sword made of sharks teeth from Kiribati.
This section will also feature a number of artworks, including some new commissions, as well as interactive and multi-sensory opportunities for children.
Perspectives presents objects in a variety of categories, posing questions about how we classify the world around us. Perspectives also examines what anthropology is and explores fieldwork undertaken by anthropologists who collected or donated material to the museum. The Horniman has also worked with members of its Access Advisory Group to co-curate a display of objects linked to representations of disability and mental illness.
Horniman’s Vision provides an overview of the museum’s history and ethos through the life of its founder, Frederick Horniman. The displays include ancient pottery, European armour and items of natural history from Surrey House, Frederick’s family home, which he opened to the public on the site of the present museum. Horniman gave his museum and its collections to ‘the people in perpetuity’ in 1901 to help them discover the world – a legacy that lives on in the new gallery.
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