Horniman Museum

Horniman Museum

The Horniman Museum was founded by Victorian tea trader Frederick John Horniman. His work in the family tea business inspired his interest in cultures around the world and provided him with the income to fuel his passion for collecting. Horniman began collecting in the 1860s. His mission was to bring the world to London and he opened his family home in Forest Hill to the public so they could view the riches he had collected. The collections soon outgrew the house and in 1898 Horniman commissioned Charles Harrison Townsend to design a purpose built museum.

The Museum opened in 1901 and was dedicated with the surrounding land as a free gift to the people of London by Horniman for their recreation, instruction and enjoyment. The original collections comprised natural history specimens, cultural artefacts and musical instruments. The Musuem's current focus on music, anthropology and natural history and its supporting library stem from these interests. Over the last 100 years the Museum has added significantly to the original bequest. Further buildings were added to the original during the course of the last century, notably in 1911 when a new building was donated by Frederick's son Emslie. In 1999 the Museum embarked on a Centenary Development to create a new extension, which opened in 2002.

Musical instruments from around the world have always been an important part of the collections. In 1901, the collection contained approximately 200 instruments. These included European string and wind instruments, Roman bells and other archeological material and instruments from early 19th-century Britain. Instruments from colonial interests such as Africa and India featured in the collections. Upon his retirement, Horniman travelled extensively and trips to India, America and Japan yielded further material. Horniman was a regular visitor to the exhibitions at the Crystal Palace, located only a short distance away in upper Sydenham. A large barrel organ purchased from the display stand of Imof and Mukle was one of the Museum's favourite exhibits and enabled visitors to experience cutting edge musical technology.

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