Designated collection: Learning at the Horniman Museum

By Rachel Hayward | 30 September 2009
Photo showing a young woman with a fringe and her hair tied back putting away some colourful costumes in a museum Handling Collection room

Graz Ciuksza, Horniman Museum Schools Learning Officer, puts away some of the costumes in the museum's Hands on Base, where you can touch and explore musical instruments, masks, puppets, and clothing from all over the world

London's Horniman Museum is well-known for its great educational package for schools and colleges. Did you also know that its Music and Ethnography collections have got Designated collections status?

In her capacity as the Horniman Museum Schools Learning Officer, Graz Ciuksza introduces the learning provision at the museum. There are three YouTube videos you can view: a general introduction, and overviews of the learning provision for the Music and Ethnography collections.

Most learning sessions involve time in the museum's amazing Hands on Base room. Graz Graz Ciuksza describes the ethos behind the Hands on Base thus: "This room tries to encourage the freedom to ask questions and not have expectations of labels."

"Absolutely nothing in our 3,000-strong Handling Collection has a label - this is to encourage engagement. Likewise, groupings of these objects are intended to make you more curious."

Photo showing the Horniman Museum Handling Collection room

The Horniman Museum's Hands on Base room, featuring more than 3,000 objects available to explore. © Rachel Hayward / Culture24

There's even more on offer at the Horniman Museum. The museum's free permanent exhibitions include galleries on musical instruments, Africa, natural history, nature, collecting and medicine, as well as booked sessions in the wildlife garden, a nature trail and a community food garden planned for May 2010.

Photo showing object from the Horniman Museum Handling Collection including instruments and puppets from India

A selection of instruments and puppets in the Horniman Museum's Handling Collection. © Rachel Hayward / Culture24

Curriculum-based sessions at the Horniman Museum
You can book a free 45-minute, interactive tutor-led session and explore the free galleries, garden and nature trail using activities downloaded from the Horniman Museum website.

Early Years and Primary
The Horniman Museum supports Early Years education and its Primary School Programme caters for Art and Design, Citizenship, Design and Technology, Geography, History, Music, PSHE and Science.

Traditionally popular sessions offered at Key Stage 1 and 2 include Ancient Egypt, Puppets, Masks and Toys.

The museum also offers engaging alternatives. How about the Key Stage 1 and 2 sections on rainforest people and animals, where pupils can explore objects from the South American rainforest including Amerindian costume, everyday and ceremonial items and taxidermy animals, models and skeletons?

Learning Packs to support the sessions are all downloadable from the Horniman Museum's website.

The museum is also happy to develop tailor-made sessions to your curriculum requirements - just contact Horniman Schools' Education. Call 020 8291 8686 or email

Secondary and Further Education
At secondary level, all year groups, including GCSE and A level students, get the same amazing subject-spread on offer - Art and Design, Citizenship, Geography, History, Music and Science - but in greater breadth and depth.

Exciting sessions include Indonesian Theatre (where pupils can cover Art and Design), Drama and Dance (by discovering the stories behind masks puppetry and dance from Indonesia) and hands-on activities centred around masks and costumes, puppets and dances.

For more information, download the Masks Learning Pack, the Textiles Learning Pack and the Textiles Fact File for information on Japanese Noh masks and kimonos from the Horniman Museum's selection of Learning Packs.

There is also a Musical Instruments and Science of Sound session. For more information, download the Horniman Museum’s Musical Instruments Learning Pack.

With its grass-roofed Centre for the Understanding of the Environment (CUE) building, the Horniman Museum's commitment to Science, Geography and Citizenship is clear.

There are Biodiversity Dialogue Days, an Eco-Citizens session and the Horniman Museum is part of 2010's National Science and Engineering Week, to name just some of the related-content on offer.

Like what you read but want something more specific? The Horniman Museum is also happy to develop tailor-made sessions to your curriculum requirements.

The Museum can arrange behind-the-scenes tours and meet-the-expert sessions as well as artist events, study days (jncluding cross-curricular study days) and debates. Teacher INSET is also available.

For more details on all the education programmes at the Horniman call 020 8291 8686 or email You can also find out more in the Education section of the Horniman Museum website.

The Horniman Museum's Ethnography and Music collections are Designated collections.

Designated collections are museum, library and archive collections which have been identified as being of national and international importance, based in non-national venues.

Horniman Museum Learning: Introduction

Horniman Museum Learning: Ethnography

Horniman Museum Learning: Music

designation logo with photo of a woman looking at displays

For more stories from inside the Horniman Museum, visit our introduction to the Designated collection series.

More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned:
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