As part of the review of their anthropology collections, the Horniman invited 32 lucky local people to engage creatively with some key objects from that collection. The Community Fieldworkers, as they were known, were given special access to the collections store and training on how to work with and consider the objects they would be responding to. They were then sent 18 postcards, each one showing a different object. From this stimulus they were asked to create, research, respond or tell a story based on at least one of the objects they felt a connection with.
All of these responses were gathered together for public display one afternoon in the Horniman’s pavilion building and we were invited along to record the work and chat to a small handful of the fieldworkers who contributed to the project. The work was very diverse and often very beautiful. The Community Fieldworkers had really risen to the challenge of engaging with the objects and everyone’s responses were so individual that I can only say I wish I had more time to really look through it all.
Nicola Scott was one of the coordinators of the project and tells us a little bit more about it here:
Then we heard from the fieldworkers who made pieces ranging from spoken word readings to Sculpture via collage and maps!
There was a wonderfully warm and community atmosphere as visitors, fieldworkers, friends and family investigated and documented the work for themselves.
The Horniman runs a very inclusive volunteer programme providing public facing activities and experiences for their visitors helping them to engage with the museum and garden collections. Engage in nature, it is also Engage in name. The Engage Programme was started five years ago in 2009 and to mark this anniversary we were invited to make a short film explaining the work that was shown as part of the celebrations at an Afternoon Tea in the Pavilion of the Horniman Gardens.
With so much to cover we had a packed day giving is a real insight to the variety of opportunities available to volunteers. We were able to see, not only how much the visitors get out of their interactions with the hard working volunteers, but how much the volunteers get back by speaking to former volunteers who are now employed – both at the museum and in other organisations.
Luckily we had really beautiful weather which really helped capture the feeling and atmosphere of this successful addition to a wonderful museum.
To mark the opening of their new display, At Home With Music, the Horniman asked us to film a music recital. The instrument was a beautiful 1772 Kirckman harpsichord which has been restored into playing condition specifically for this new display.
This was a live event at the opening of the new display and the harpsichord is displayed fairly flat against a wall along a narrow corridor between stunning display cases. There was a challenge then to get a range of footage in a dark, tight and busy environment that would also best respect the music and occasion. To do this we arrived early to insert a camera in overhead ceiling vent and employed a gopro which sat almost directly on the keyboard giving us a bird’s eye and an ant’s eye view of the proceedings.
The pieces we recorded were the two new compositions that had won a competition run by the Horniman to mark the opening of the new exhibition and restoration of the harpsichord. They were wonderfully played by Jane Chapman, who was very accommodating to our technical discussions, and really brought the new display to life with her performances.
The Sprawl by Adam W. Stafford
Vine by Tim Watts
The exhibition is a permanent new display, curated by Mimi Waitzman and is a collection of keyboard instruments from the V&A and Horniman collections. Unsurprisingly it can be found in the museum’s music gallery and is very inviting, the only problem is trying not to touch the very welcoming keyboards and stunning pieces on open display.
A little while back the Horniman invited us to cover an event they were hosting exploring amulets and amuletic practice. I wasn’t sure what an amulet is so it was fascinating to see and explore the amulets from the Horniman collection that ranged from a First World War intricate heart shaped tin keepsake to a necklace made of human teeth.
Speakers at the event included representatives from the Museum of Witchcraft in Cornwall as well as anthropologists from UCL and international artists.
As a non-specialist observer it was interesting to hear those involved debating what it is that makes something an amulet, which was one of the key questions that we wanted to answer when we were first asked to cover this event. For some it seemed it can be anything that we might use as a lucky item. Although I am not immune to superstition I realised that I don’t have any amulets myself but I do wonder how many people do hold special or lucky items with them, particularly for special occasions.