Anahita in Sharjah
18 October 2017 | 12:00 am

Wed, 18th Oct 2017

Horniman volunteer, Anahita, tells us how her experiences in Forest Hill have helped her in her new role in the United Arab Emirates. My name is Anahita and I volunteer at the Horniman Museum. I recently left London for Sharjah, an Emirate in the United Arab Emirates, for a three-month professional internship at Sharjah Art Foundation. I thought this would be a great chance to try out living in another country and to learn more about Middle Eastern art. So far I have been to a few exhibitions in both Sharjah and Dubai, and have met lovely artists, curators, and arts administrators. At the Horniman, I was involved in many different areas across the Museum such as Engage, World of Stories, and Community Engagement. I have been able to use my experiences with Community Engagement in particular for my work here in the Education Department. I am currently putting together the Autumn Disabilities Education Programme and planning art workshops for disabled young people in the community. Although my work is mainly office based, I am looking forward to working with local people at nearby art centres and the Urban Garden in Sharjah. I am starting to get used to the heat - it is pretty similar to the temperature and humidity in the butterfly house. I will be back at the Horniman in mid-December, and look forward to seeing everyone then.  

The Horniman wins big at volunteer awards
13 October 2017 | 12:00 am

Fri, 13th Oct 2017

Gemma Murray, Engage Volunteer and Family Learning Volunteer supporting Busy Bees sessions, tells us about the recent London Volunteers in Museums Awards Ceremony 2017 which she and her fellow volunteers attended to recognise their huge contribution to the Horniman Museum and Gardens. On Friday evening a couple of weeks ago, Horniman staff and volunteers made their way into Central London. What was the big draw? The London Volunteer in Museums Awards at City Hall.  The London Volunteers in Museums Awards have been running annually for the past nine years with the aim of celebrating the contribution made by volunteers to museums throughout the capital. In previous years, Horniman volunteers including Peter O’Donovan and Ricky Linsdell have been winners, but could we repeat our successes?  Upon arriving at the awards that were being held at City Hall, the first thing most of us did was to head out onto the balcony. There we found stunning views of Tower Bridge and the river bathed in the evening sun after what had been a long day of drizzle. There is nothing like seeing the Thames to make you really appreciate the fact that you are in London. Once the awards got going, two things struck me. Firstly, quite how many diverse and fascinating museums there are in London. I like to think I've seen a lot of what London has to offer, but I still have so many places to check off my site seeing list. The second thing was the number and diversity of roles which are filled by volunteers. Listening to the winners was fascinating, but I also felt like I'd never really appreciated how many and various the roles played by volunteers at the Horniman really are. Seher Ghufoor was a deserving winner of the Youth Award for her huge contribution to the Horniman Youth Panel and work involving young refugees, asylum seekers, and new arrivals. The Engage ‘Discovery Box Project Volunteers’ were runners-up in the Best Team award for all their hard work making their mini-museum. Jane Beales was runner-up in the Developing in a Role award for her huge enthusiasm and hard work over at the SCC. I was runner-up in the Going the Extra Mile award for her proactive and sensitive support to our under-5’s Busy Bee programme, and Michelle Davis has finally been recognised for her sensitive and positive support of volunteers in the Aquarium after years of working tirelessly behind the scenes.So many roles – and this is before mentioning all those in the Butterfly House, Animal Walk, on the touch table and in the gardens, supporting weekend stories and events… As the evening drew to a close, those left from the Horniman team swept Volunteering Manager Rhiannon onto the stage to thank her for her efforts in organising the proceedings -and to strike a pose on the winners' podium. With the massive pool of talent here at the Horniman, I'm sure next year we will sweep the board!   

Specimen of the Month: The Giant Squid
10 October 2017 | 12:00 am

Tue, 10th Oct 2017

The good news is that you still have until the 29th October to enjoy our incredibly popular temporary exhibition the Robot Zoo and interact with the larger than life animatronic animals that inhabit the gallery. In even better news, there is still one final species in the exhibition to have not yet been investigated by the Specimen of the Month blog series, hoorah, and that is the Giant Squid (Architeuthis). NB: There is no bad news in the Specimen of the Month blog series. Squid or Cuttlefish? Today is International Squid and Cuttlefish Day, so let’s start with the difference between a squid and a cuttlefish as let’s be honest, probably not everyone has nailed it. Cuttlefish are a type of squid so, that’s confusing for a start. What we’re really asking is - what’s the difference between a cuttlefish-squid and all of the other types of squid that we call squid, ‘traditional squid’ if you prefer. The answer - Cuttlefish have a lovely fringe that skirts their entire body like a tutu, and a face that looks like it got stuck in a spiralizer. A squid-squid, on the other hand, could be compared to an ice cream cone with an octopus stuck on the top. The tutu is restricted to two triangular ‘wings’, one on either side of the mantle, that in some species form an arrow-shaped ‘tail’. Unlike their close relative, the octopus, whose anatomy is restricted to just the eight appendages, both squid and cuttlefish have eight arms and two tentacles as well for good measure. The arms are covered in suckers, which in the Giant Squid can measure 5 cm across. Tentacles tend to be much longer than the arms and have sucker-covered ‘tentacular clubs’ on the tips. The tentacles are used in the same way as rocket-propelled net launchers; they are flung out at prey with great speed in ambush attacks. Once they’ve got a hold, the tentacles bring the prey in closer to where the arms can get involved and help guide the prey back to the mouth at their base.They don't make it easy Incredibly, despite extensive efforts by scientists to study them, no Giant Squid had ever been seen alive until 2004 when Japanese scientists managed to get the first photographs of a living animal. It took another two years for scientists to hook one and pull it to the surface, thus making history with the first human (on record) to ever clap eyes on a live Giant Squid. In 2012, scientists used a submersible and both saw and recorded a Giant Squid feeding in its natural habitat. The story of how they acquired the footage that had scientists around the world drooling over their laptops is quite wonderful. Given how vast the world’s oceans are, rather than going in search of a Giant Squid they decided it would be much more efficient to attract a squid to them. The Giant Squid doesn’t prey on jellyfish (that we know of) but jellyfish luminesce when predators are nearby, and jellyfish predators are what the Giant Squid eats. So the research team attached a series of bioluminescent lures to the outside of their submersible in an ingenious effort to mimic panicked jellyfish, and, as you can see from this clip beneath, the ingenuity paid off.20,000 leagues under the sea There is a lot of misinformation about the Giant Squid, specifically in relation to its size. It doesn’t help that what we do know about their dimensions is largely based on carcasses that have washed up on beaches half decayed, with tentacles and arms missing, and often bloated with water. Without a doubt, the Giant and Colossal Squid are the two largest invertebrates on the planet (currently known to science), yet because they are so elusive, and we can’t just go out and catch a good sample of specimens, we don’t know realistic maximum body lengths. Putting aside anecdotes from fishermen who report 900 foot monsters far out at sea - the Giant Squid is thought to be responsible for the myth of the Kraken for example - the largest scientifically recorded Giant Squid specimen was 13 metres. That is a massive animal with enough wow-factor to not warrant exaggeration in my book, but exaggeration is human nature I suppose. Measurements for the largest Colossal Squid on record vary greatly but most references seem to acknowledge the Giant Squid as being the larger of the two. The final thing I want to tell you about the Giant Squid is how they got so big. The best guess scientists have come up with is this species has evolved larger and larger in an eight-arms race with predators. The only (known) predator of an adult Giant Squid is the Sperm Whale, which in itself is a huge beast and imagining epic battles between these two colossal creatures makes one's inner geek salivate. Although this has never been witnessed (presumably their encounters occur many fathoms below the surface) beak parts of Giant Squid are regularly recovered from the stomachs of Sperm Whales, and in a tit-for-tat scenario that suggests a battle rather than clear-cut predation, many Sperm Whales are found to be covered in scars from giant suckers, duh duh duuuuuh...

Our Favourite Butterflies
9 October 2017 | 12:00 am

Mon, 9th Oct 2017

Our Butterfly House is full of dozens of different species of butterfly, but we point out five of the core species. To get up close and personal with these amazing creatures be sure to book tickets to visit our new Butterfly House - open all year round. Blue Morpho (Morpho menelaus)Morpho menelaus is one of the thirty species of butterfly in the Morphindae family and is known for its unique iridescent blue colour. Found across Central and South America, the Morpho's range stretches from Brazil to Mexico. They are also known for their slow and sloppy flight patterns. Tailed Jay (Graphium agamemnon)The Tailed Jay is a predominantly green and black tropical butterfly that ranges from India, across Southeast Asia, to as far afield as Queensland, Australia. They are strong flyers and very rarely cease flapping their wings. Glasswing Butterfly (Greta oto)The Glasswing is unique for its transparent wings and its unusual behaviour for butterflies such as long migrations and lekking. Large Tree Nymph (Idea leuconoe)Dispersed across Southeast Asia, the Large Tree Nymph has translucent silvery wings. Due to its diet, both the butterfly and its larvae are poisonous to eat.  Red Postman (Heliconius erato)The Red Postman can be found from Texas to Argentina and mimics the patterns of other butterflies to warn off predators.  


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