Of Birds and Walruses

Once again I find myself apologising for being lax in my blogging, but I do have a good excuse this time: I recently moved to London in a bit of a hurry, and have been busy flat-hunting and settling into my new job as a Documentation Assistant at the Horniman Museum in Forest Hill. Which is a lovely museum (not that I’ve yet had time to actually go round all of it properly!); if you haven’t been, you should go.

It’s lovely to once again be back working full-time in a museum; although, despite the fact that my role is on paper largely similar to what I was doing at Glasgow (it’s all about digitising collections and editing records for use online), in reality the day-to-day work is quite different: at the Hunterian I was physically looking at the collections and creating new records, but the records already exist at the Horniman, so the job is simply a matter of proof-reading and editing them into the approved format for online publication. Which means that I get zero contact with the collections, but plenty of contact with my computer! But reading through the records is still a fascinating way of learning about the collections, even if I never get to see the objects in person, and the museum does have some fantastic objects…lots of beautiful rare and exotic bird mounts, an amazing anthropology collection including masks and puppets from all over the world, and a stunning near life-sized papier-mache model of Kali standing on Shiva (there is a story behind it, but I can’t remember it offhand!), instruments of torture (including an Inquisition-style torture chair that may or may not be genuine), and a wonderfully fat overstuffed walrus! Which was prepared by a taxidermist who had never seen a walrus and didn’t know that it was supposed to have folds of skin. The thing is ENORMOUS! And they are big creatures to start with.

Living in London is going to be a bit of an adjustment, but it is quite inspiring to be in a city that has such a huge amount of culture – there are so many museums that I need to go and see, and so many music venues, theatres, markets, cinemas…I will never be short of things to do at the weekends. I haven’t had a chance to visit any other museums yet, but first on my list is the newly-rehoused Grant Museum of Zoology at UCL, which I’m going to later this week, and then I’m planning to see the otherHunterian Museum (at the Royal College of Surgeons). Followed, of course, by the British Museum (which I’ve shamefully never been to!) and the Natural History Museum (which I haven’t been to in years).


2 thoughts on “Of Birds and Walruses

  1. I like the Victorian feel of the natural history displays at the Horniman. I'd spend every lunch hour exploring the collection!

    Did they move the Grant Museum far from it's original location? I would love to live in London someday, purely for the museums…

  2. No, the Grant has just moved across the road! They seem to have kept the old-style display cases and everything too, which is nice.

    I do love the Victorian feel of the Horniman natural history displays, but the interpretation is a little odd in places. The cases of birds are stunning, though. I still need to find time to look at it all properly – I've been so busy that I've only been able to have a quick look so far!

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