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Friday, 21 June 2013

Taking the kids to an Amazon Adventure Including: Vicious Fishes and Other Riches

The Horniman Museum and Gardens has built up quite a reputation for its self; it was officially one of the first established museums in the country and also boasts one of the largest collections of Anthropological artifacts in Europe (not to mention the infamous walrus at the epicentre of the natural history gallery, known to every 2-10 year old in the London area and further). I took the three year old boy I was taking care of who is a Horniman local to the Amazon Adventure temporary exhibition. Being a stalwart he wanted to go straight to the walrus and was dismayed at the least that it had taken a holiday to Margate at this particular time. I am a huge Horniman fan and have visited at least ten times, I was aware of the small size of the temporary exhibition room and was hoping that the £8.10 I paid for one adult and one child would proffer a good few hours of entertainment.

One thing I have always loved about the Horniman, especially as a person who takes a personal interest in spatial arrangements, is the interactive nature of the museum and how it varies between each exhibition room. The variations go from no interaction at all within the natural history hall,  to very noisy musical instruments within the music gallery (so very wonderfully headache inducing when taking kids along) to my personal favorite nature base in which children and adults can look at insects under microscopes, listen to different bird sounds at the spin of a wheel and stroke the very creepy and often badly done taxidermies of foxes and badgers. Needless to say I was expecting a lot of impressive interaction within the Amazon Adventure exhibition…I wasn't let down.

You enter into a real life to scale boat with an interactive video of a captain explaining that the exhibition will mainly entail the types of fish that he would be fishing in the Amazon, but you will also be looking into the other ecology and wildlife on the river. Most of the information was too dense for three year old Arthur and I would suspect for anyone under the age of ten, yet the interactive pictures, puzzles, real life fish, taxidermy, dance floor and wildlife shooting dark room are all areas that interest the children greatly. The general interaction it fantastic but I would say that the close proximity of each section meant that I had nowhere near enough time to read the written information given as it was all too exciting for Arthur. 

The one thing that stuck out to me and to Arthur who are twenty years apart in age (probably not in mentality though), were the 200lb to scale Anaconda that you are invited to attempt to lift, it really did show you the magnitude of the wildlife of the Amazon both in sheer size yet also in contrast to the everyday worms that one may stumble across locally in Forest Hill. 

Over all we were only in there for around 45 minutes, which may be due to Arthur’s shyness and short attention span yet could also be due to the small size of the exhibition room. I don’t resent the price tag as I can see that a huge amount was invested into the interaction within the space and if I had been in the room by myself then I could have spent hours learning about the diverse ecology of the Amazon River. I would perhaps warn those taking children younger than the age of around 4-5 to think twice about paying, as I feel the rest of the museum would have sufficed in entertaining Arthur for the afternoon.

Guest blogger: Alice Colley

Alice is a vintage clothes seller, jewelry maker, face paint fanatic,and often presents herself as  Pres Ident Wensleydale. ( She loves cheese!)

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