I first went to the Horniman Museum as a small child. My dad and mum were always taking me – and then ‘us’, when my sister was born – to places of interest. Museums, parks, country houses, art galleries, London’s tourist attractions – we were exposed to every form of culture available at the time.Some of it stuck, some of it didn’t, but at least we were given the chance to choose what we liked and what we didn’t. Back then, the Horniman was a fusty, old dark place, full of stuffed animals and dingy hidden corners. I loved it, though, as it was so different from my everyday life.
So I decided to reccie for a school visit next academic year, as it will have changed dramatically in the years since I was last there. I was not wrong.
Firstly, I had chosen to go during half term week, which was unavoidable as I can’t go during the week in term time. Consequently, the place was teeming with children, each adult appearing to have more than their fair share – I’m guessing they were taking some for people who had to work. There was at least one pushchair per group and none of the ‘pushers’ would have gained a licence if they were giving them away! The museum now has considerably more floor area and is on three floors, but this did not seem to alter the fact that I felt as though I was running the gauntlet just to get from one side of a room to the other. There was a lot of ‘stuff’ (I apologise to my colleague, who would know who she is if she ever managed to read this) which was displayed in huge, glass cases in every room. The museum possesses a massive musical instrument collection, also behind glass. The African room is packed with scary masks and headdresses and the old part of the building – the one I remember – is still full of stuffed (mostly extint) animals.
The teacher in me was sorely disappointed.
1. In order to speak to the Education Officer, I would have had to queue up for the ticket office to ask to speak to her/him – even though I didn’t want a ticket. The queue was incredibly long when I arrived and no better when I was about to leave. I didn’t bother. I was given this information by a young man at the door who had a walkie-talkie but was apparently unable to contact people with it,
2, There were no gallery specific leaflets – not even for ready money.
3. There was no museum guide. Anywhere. I asked.
4. A school party would be able to enter the special exhibitions for a reduced price, but it wasn’t possible to book online or over the phone. It had to be done on the day, at the ticket office.
I really want to take some kids for a story-telling workshop but I’m not at all sure I would be able to book it without a lot of hassle. I will try because it looks good and because the devil in me wants to be able to complain when something goes wrong. Am I a bad person?