The Horniman Museum – 02/12/11

Go on, have a snigger. Horniman. Sounds kinda rude doesn’t it? We’ve all been there…some of us have matured and got over it. Clearly I’m not one of those but never mind *snigger*

So, to the Museum. I’ll ‘fess up now and tell you that we barely saw any of it. I’d set aside an afternoon, which I thought would be plenty but apparantly not. Not when there’s an aquarium in the basement to visit…but more on that later.

It is a particularly toddler-friendly museum. Some are and some aren’t. That’s not a judgement – it’s just like saying some television shows are made with toddlers in mind and some aren’t. Heaven help us if all the channels start showing “Justin’s House” back-to-back. Inappropriate Justin-Fletcher comparisons aside, this was a museum that had gone out of the way to accomodate little terrors. There’s a baby changing table and opposite that a cloakroom, where you can bike-chain up your buggy (a nicer part of South London it might be but it’s still South London). I wasn’t entirely sure on how these locks worked, but I found some stray tokens and those seemed to do the trick. When buying our aquarium tickets (one of the only bits you had to pay for…£2.00 per adult and free for under 3s, so not crippling) I noticed a pot of tokens at the reception desk so maybe you ask there? Ho hum…There are also buggy parks just outside the aquarium and on the lower ground floors as well, although not secured.

We started in the cafe – obviously. Roo was asleep when I ordered my lunch, so I had the old dilemma of whether to order for him (which would ensure he’d sleep through) or not order for him (guaranteed wake-up). I went for option #2, he woke up (obviously) and I had to improvise. Luckily I’d bought a pot of pasta salad at the Tesco Metro down the road for exactly this eventuality, so I put that onto my salad plate and pretended he was eating food from the cafe. Shh, don’t tell anyone. While we’re at it, yes my salad came with its own entire plate (aside from my jacket potato, with roasted vegetables and ice-cream scoop of houmous) – the portions are pretty generous. That method of lunch seemed to work well, especially once Roo’s friend Jake had given up on his chips and Roo got to scoff those too. It’s a pity we didn’t sample the kids menu cause it looked good and extensive – pastas and vegetable-based stuff as well as the usual “Things ‘n’chips”. Though you may have discerned that Roo is already in the “Things ‘n’chips” stage. The “thing” in question being ketchup. Sigh.

Then we went outside. It was a nice sunny day (if cold) and Jake likes being outside, so we all went for a runaround. The boys ran along the benches, pretending to be choo-choos and Tammy and I admired the (very echo-y) wrought iron conservatory. Pretty isn’t it? And so very noisy, when Roo was hooting happily inside it. Luckily there was no-one else in there at the time. I think it’s a kind of picnic area most of the time but for one afternoon only it was an ampitheatre for toddlers.

Eventually, we persuaded them back into the warm. Specifically to the aquarium! As mentioned above, it’s dirt cheap (10% of the London Aquarium entry price) so I wasn’t expecting much. And it is fairly small. But enough to entertain two small boys for well over an hour. So what was there? Well, it was all divided into different terrains – British pond to South American rainforest -and each tank had a variety of sea creatures in it. Some had 360 views, like the very cool starfish tank in the atrium, and most had at least a couple of sides that you could go round so it wasn’t just a series of flat tanks. The cave-like section in between two British Pond tanks also doubled as Jake’s treehouse. With adjoining garden, apparantly.

My favourite part was the jellyfish tank, which the photo above does no justice. It was kinda ultraviolet-lit, which showed the jellyfish up as almost ghostly creatures, floating through electric blue water. So pretty!! Roo watched it for ages too. His favourite was probably the tank with the frogs in it, which came with an accompanying touch-screen game, where you had to put the different stages of a frog’s life-cycle in order. I won’t pretend there weren’t tears over who got to play with that game. It got messy.

What else? Lobsters, fish (no clownfish at the moment, as their tank was being renovated) and more frogs. Seahorses, as seen on Octonauts. Nothing big, like a shark (despite having a sign about sharks) but you wouldn’t really expect that in a small area like this. There was also a colouring station for children to draw pictures of the sealife and explorer vests to wear, with notes in the pocket. Obviously Roo just liked wearing the vest.

By now, rush hour was beckoning so I’m ashamed to say we saw very little of the rest of the museum. Instrument gallery -passed by, Hands-on kids room – skimmed (but did they have a taxidermed fox in there? Or am I going nuts?). I insisted on seeing the giant walrus, which all the guides to Horniman mention all the time, and it was indeed massive. And a walrus. Gift shop – perused for some time and shark grabber purchased (despite the fact that they didn’t have any sharks, as discussed). Keep hold of your aquarium ticket as you get 10% off in the gift shop with it! The gardens were largely closed for renovation when went (it is December after all) but looked like they’d be good for a wander some other time.

VERDICT: A fascinating museum and very child-friendly, which definitely needs more exploration sometime soon.

update (without capital letters, cause they’re just so krypto-fascist): as a general rule, i never go back. je ne regrette rien. but i regret this review. it was rubbish and i missed most of the museum. i’ve been back twice since, so here you go. excuse the lack of capitals. i’m on a train, and crapberry is refusing to play ball.

right, you need to check out the gardens. they have the most beautiful view over london, and a guide to tell you what everything is. there is also a vast green lawn for running around on, and a couple of flower gardens. plus, my favourite bit – giant outdoor instruments (xylophone etc) with golfball beaters. naturally, there was much fighting over the beaters.

the hands-on room did indeed have a taxidermed fox in it which roo enjoyed stroking (we call it foxy), but also a glass panel full of bees. the bees are not hands-on as such. i also found some taxidermed dog heads, which were a tad creepy. roo was a little freaked out by the centenary gallery but not sure why.

the instrument gallery was interesting but the interactive bits do get overrun with schoolchildren. basically they’re tables with touchscreens where you select an instrument and press a big orange button to read about its history and hear an excerpt. roo just liked pressing the big orange button. there’s also a room where you can try out the instruments but it’s been closed both times i’ve been there.

phew, that feels better. hopefully you are now more informed and i can rest easy. sorry again for the lack of capitals. stoopid phone.

More details here (official website)

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12 Responses to The Horniman Museum – 02/12/11

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  11. k berry says:

    Has this museum been updated. Am I mistaken in thinking it WAS a very old long established museum that used to house a myriad of collected items not specifically related and laid out in no particular order for one to browse around— or am I thinking of a different London museum?

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