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Transcript of Frederick Horniman
The Horniman Museum
Nicky Levell - 2000
Oriental visions: exhibitions, travel, and collecting in the Victorian Age
Orchestral Organ and Music Room
Tibetan 'skull drum'. Acquired by E.J Horniman through Paul Mowis in Darjeeling, 1895 (on tour)
"One very peculiar instrument...a Tibet drum...formed of two human skulls, placed back to back, stretched with parchment and covered with skin."
It seems that Horniman’s collection of musical instruments, specifically oriental examples, did not start to take form until the 1890s when he added some good examples from China:
Including: a Cheng, Pepa, San-heen, Moon-lyre and a Brass trumpet, as well as a collection of opium and water pipes and other Chinese articles, from an unnamed vendor on 9th July 1892.
Whereas at the 1886 Exhibition, these weapons would have been exhibited in the art-ware courts, primarily as specemins illustrative of the decorative manufactures of different regions and provinces; juxtaposed with Horniman's collection of Samuari armour, they arguably served to project not only the artistic accomplishment of oriental peoples but also the 'primitive' technologies they utilised in the sphere of weaponry.
View of the 'Japanese' display case in the Reception Room c.1896
"The Horniman museum was transformed into a 'disciplinary institution capable of conditioning the behaviour of the 'progressive' western citizen."
control of space
Haddon and his colleague Geddes revolutionized the Musuem. Under their guidance the Museum became a space that was highly controlled, aware of its contents and the manner in which they wished the public to use it and view the objects on display. It was a product of the response to Foucault and Bentham regarding the use of public space as a tool to educate, control and monitor the people using it.
Horniman begins collecting for himself and his own pleasure. Collects without knowing provenance or information in many cases.
His collection outgrows his home and he decides to make his house the official museum
His public and private collection continues to grow. Richard Quick curates objects. Slightly haphazard placement. More like a curiosity cabinet
Horniman decides to give the museum as a gift to the people. Haddon takes over, Quick is asked to leave. The Museum becomes a modern social space. The collection becomes more scientifically curated. Ethnographic
collecting objects, specimens and artefacts 'illustrating natural history and the arts and handicrafts of various peoples of the world' from around 1860
His overarching mission was to 'bring the world to Forest Hill' and educate and enrich the lives of the local community.
The identity of the collector and how it is reflected through the collection
Victorian attitudes towards the non-european ‘other’
The shift from private to public museums.
This presentation will look mainly at the text
The Horniman Museum: an Elysium of Oriental delights by Nicky Levell.
How Horniman’s collection changed with the influence of different curatorial approaches
How the importance of scientific knowledge eclipsed aesthetic appearance.
8 October 1835 - 5th March 1906
English tea trader
Inherited Horniman's tea from his father (largest tea company in the world at the time) in 1870s.
Exposure to global travel and a significant disposable income
From Quaker family
His travels took him to far flung destinations such as Egypt, Sri Lanka, Burma, China, Japan, Canada and the United States collecting objects which 'either appealed to his own fancy or that seemed to him likely to interest and inform those who had not had the opportunity to visit distant lands'.
The Horniman Musuem Today:
Third most significant ethnographic collection in the United Kingdom, after the British Museum and the Pitt-Rivers Museum, Oxford.
Comprises approximately 80,000 objects from around the world and includes specimens of major national and international significance (double the original 19th c. collection)
London, Forest Hill
Provides us with an insight into how Victorians viewed the world and their place within it.
The Horniman family’s former London Road residence became known as the Surrey House Museum and was freely opened to the general public on 24 December 1890.
The collection was divided into two sections - Art and Nature. During its first year, the museum was open for 110 days and received 42,808 visitors. Mr Horniman and his staff including the museum's first curator Richard Quick continued to actively develop the collections with regards to both display and content. In 1893, it was necessary to build an extension onto the museum to accommodate the growing collection.
The adjoining gardens were officially opened to the public on 1 June 1895.
In 1898, Mr Horniman decided to erect a more suitable public museum in which the collections could be adequately displayed and appreciated. The old museum was closed on 29 January 1898 and demolished in the May of that year. Surrey Mount was used as a store house.
The architect Charles Harrison Townsend was commissioned to design the new museum. The foundations were laid between June and September 1898. When the building was completed, in his determination to increase the popularity and utility of the museum, particularly with regards to learning and education, Mr Horniman resolved to donate the museum, collections and adjoining grounds as a free gift to the people in perpetuity with London County Council as Trustees.
The Museum and Gardens were formally opened to the public on 29 June 1901. The Horniman family continued to take an active interest in the museum donating objects and large collections of books to the library. In 1912, Frederick Horniman's son Emslie Horniman generously donated money to build a new library and lecture theatre.
Under the London County Council and its various adaptations, the museum continued to develop collections and learning and education programmes that 'brought the world to Forest Hill'.
1901 - Museum exterior
Modes of Collecting - Pearce
Pearce states that there are three modes of collecting:
It must be stressed that many individual collectors and collections show elements of more than one mode, either at the same time or reflecting successive phases of activity and material which was a souvenir for one person will be an object of desire for another, and may finally become part of a systematic museum display.
Artistic background and interests
Resident curator at Horniman 1891-1904
pivotal in the way that the museum was catalogued and displayed
Wrote free museum guidebook
Quick’s descriptions place emphasis on the physical aesthetic qualities of the works.
Quick was a member of Japan societies and lectured on Japan and Japanese art.
In 1901, when the Horniman family decided to turn the museum over to the public for “recreation, instruction and enjoyment”, the council allowed anthropologist Alfred Cort Haddon to inspect the collections and comment on their classification and arrangement.
lecturer in Ethnology at University of Cambridge and had begun his career in the natural sciences and zoology
completely different outlook to Quick. Haddon decided that from a scientific point of view, there is “insufficient guiding principle”
realised that a private collector’s collection, which collects what pleases him, is different to a museum whose purpose is as an educational institution.
Haddon wanted to prioritize the didactic function of the museum over its recreational value.
council agreed with this and decided that in order for the Horniman museum to be valued as an educational resource, the objects needed rationalising, reclassifying and rearranging, in line with a “scientific principle”.
It was agreed that Quick did not have sufficient scientific background to direct and oversee this transformation and so Haddon was appointed as Advisory curator to fulfil this task.
After two years Quick is asked to leave
New scientific direction for the Museum collection and its display
Museum space altered - modeled on ideas introduced by Foucault. Library and lecture halls added
How China was seen at the time:
Negative view of the country
In terms of evolution of culture - ambivalent view towards China. Not the most primitive, but certainly not on par with Europe.
China weakened and broken by financial strains
Cabinets of curiosity:
flourished in Europe from the mid-16th century
showed off the collector as an individual, showcasing their personal taste, education and interests
Horniman’s ’cabinet of curiosity’ was in his Natural History Gallery. Although, as the name suggests, the gallery was mainly dedicated to natural specimens for example shells, corals, sponges and butterflies, there was also a large collection of oriental manufactures on display.
Missionaries and China
Missionaries were preaching themes of capitalism and Christianity on a global scale, in an attempt to convert others.
Objects as trophies and reminders that these inferior races could be subdued and conquered; these items serving as a reminder of how they operated before missionary interaction
They also served as examples of how ‘primitive’ these other races were and that, above all, they should be helped
Chinese objects and display at the Horniman – How they were seen by a nineteenth century audience (Original Display)
Higher and Lower pleasures
Horniman's original display in his museum was essentially a cabinet of curiousities.
The rooms are arranged somewhat geographically but sometimes named after key pieces – such as the Egyptian Mummy room. There was no one room dedicated to China. Instead, objects were often dotted around in other rooms.
"Chinese water pipes composed of brass and they were very massive and curiously shaped"
Lots of smoking equipment. Used to show the addiction of the ‘other’
This room was principally dedicated to examples of oriental mythology and its pantheon.
Chinese temple bell spoke of one particular episode in the history of British adventurism.
Looted objects and spoils were inextricably bound up with the colonial project
Third Indian Room - Oriental Dieties and Decorative Anomolies
“The Chinese section is extremely pretty, the work boxes, baskets, boats, fans, houses etc. all being cleverly worked, but perhaps the most wonderful and elaborate object in this part is a large carved ball with seven smaller balls inside, these have been worked from a solid piece of ivory…should be noticed by every visitor.”
Long Natural History Gallery
(Cabinet of Curiosity)
By mid-1896, Horniman’s house was comprised of 24 distinctive rooms:
Old English chamber
Orchestral organ and musical room
Old English parlour
Old English pantry
Gallery of antiques
Locomotion model room
Ancient urn room
Egyptian mummy room
First, second, and third Indian rooms
New oriental saloon
First and second Indian and Ceylon room
First and second zoological saloons.
Reverend Robert Davidson’s collection, which Horniman purchased in 1895
Chinese decorative wickerwork banner containing the representation of an orchestra of ladies
Chinese table from Ning Po.
Painting of Li Hung Chang
Painting of Li Hung Chang
Aquisition, Authenticity and Fakes
Noted for their 'Interesting shapes'
Cheang, Sarah (2001) ‘The dogs of Fo: gender, identity and collecting’, in Shelton, Anthony (ed) Collectors: expressions of self and other, London: Horniman Museum, pp 55-72
Green, Judith (2001) ‘Curiosity’, ‘art’ and ‘ethnography’ in Chinese collections of John Henry Gray’, Shelton, Anthony (ed) Collectors: individuals and institutions, London: Horniman Museum, pp 111-128
Levell, Nicky (2000) ‘The Horniman Museum: an Elysium of Oriental delights’, in Levell, Nicky (2000) Oriental visions: exhibitions, travel and collecting in the Victorian age, London: The Horniman Museum & Gardens, pp 229-312
Levell, Nicky (2000) Oriental visions: exhibitions, travel and collecting in the Victorian age, London: The Horniman Museum & Gardens
Pearce, Susan (1992) ‘Collecting: shaping the world’, in Pearce, Susan (ed)
Museums, objects and collections: a cultural study, Leicester, pp 68-88.
By the second half of the nineteenth century, authenticity was becoming a major concern, an inauthentic product would not be valuable
As a result, items featuring a signature of a known maker and/or institutional affiliation effectively attested to the value and ‘authenticity’ of the piece in question
It transpired that 2 of the 3 most prestigious pieces in Horniman's collection were later discovered to be fakes.
Horniman making trips to the locations of the items purchased added weight to their value as it reinforced their authenticity.
Horniman's collection was fairly typical for a man of his status. Being wealthy, he was afforded the opportunity to travel and collect extensively.
His collection grew so large that it was deemed worthy and necessary to go on public display. Like with Lever's collection, it began as a private endeavour and then was exposed to the public.
We have looked at the shift that took place from private to public through the curators of Quick to Haddon. This resulted in a different means of display: from curiosity to ethnographic and anthropological through a scientific lens.
However, as with the original display in the musuem the objects were still ranked hierarchically through culture. This display acted like propaganda to reinforce the idea that the colonial, imperial power of Great Britain deservedly had its place at the top of the evoltionary scale of these races and cultures.
Charles Harrison Townsend
Museum Under Haddon
Two main exhibition Galleries:
The South Hall:
The North Hall:
Each hall was subdivided into 5 bays which were formed by solid mahogany, glass fronted display cases. The Museum layout was carefully designed under the influence of Foucault to create a linear route for the evolutionary narrative of display.
Public education through evolutionary display. Enabling public to reflect on themselves as progressive subjects and position themselves within the evolutionary narrative. The influence of Darwinism was extremely influential in this regard. In Britain social theorists adopted the biological theory of organic evolution to account for social evolution. This radical evolutionary approach to understanding societies was thereafter embraced by the new 'scientific' discipline anthropology.
Anthropologists began ranking societies on an evolutionary scale ranging from the lowest most primitive and uncivilized to the most complex, civilized and technically advanced manifested in material culture.
This ideology was used in the London County Council's aims for the Horniman Museum.
Summary: The new approach to the museum was a more systematic and scientific mode of display but was done in order to demonstrate the difference in cultural evolution between the advanced west and the scale of primitive non-European others (particularly from colonised areas.