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Horniman Museum
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A London institution has been shortlisted for Museum of the Year 2022

The Horniman Museum and Gardens is in the final five for the prestigious award

Chris Waywell
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Chris Waywell
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The capital is famously full of great museums – we have bloody hundreds of them. There are massive international ones like The British Museum, the V&A and the Natural History Museum. There are tiny weird ones dedicated to subjects like fans (the Greenwich Fan Museum) or grotesque anatomical specimens (the Hunterian Museum).

Somewhere between those two poles, there is the Horniman Museum and Gardens in Forest Hill, south London. And the Horniman has just been put on a shortlist of only five UK institutions for Art Fund Museum of the Year 2022.

The Horniman was founded in 1890 by Frederick Horniman, a tea importer and collector of artefacts and artworks from across the globe. He was essentially an amateur anthropologist who had the money and the means to have whatever took his fancy shipped home to London. His collection eventually outgrew his home (and Mrs Horniman’s patience) and in 1901 he had a superb museum built to house it in the up-and-coming suburb of Forest Hill, just a mile or so from the site of the world-famous Crystal Palace.

Since then, the Horniman has become a real London cultural landmark, and one whose approach has evolved over time to reflect changing attitudes to the role of the museum in education and community, with an emphasis on learning and engagement rather than simply showing random old stuff to people. Plus, it has the world’s most famous walrus and amazing views across London.

The Art Fund judges said of the shortlist: ‘The five superb finalists are all museums on a mission who are tackling the vital issues of today – from combating the climate emergency to improving literacy or exploring migration – and reaching diverse communities as they do so.’

It’s a massive achievement for such a relatively modest museum to get shortlisted for this prestigious award, and we wish the Horniman a lot of luck.

Horniman Musuem and Gardens, 100 London Rd, SE23 3PQ.

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