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First Time Out

20 January - 22 August 2011

Five objects that have never been displayed before. Each treasure from a museum collection tells a story that hasn’t been told until now. But which story?

Objects tell us about past environments, cultures, innovations and events. But they tell different stories depending on your perspective. What happens when you take something from one museum and ask experts from other museums to write the story?

First Time Out is a collaboration between five London museums:

  • Horniman Museum – anthropological objects and musical instruments
  • Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew – plant diversity, conservation and sustainable use
  • Natural History Museum – the science of nature
  • Science Museum – making sense of the science that shapes our lives
  • Wellcome Collection – the art and science of the human condition
  • Each object is on display at each institution for six weeks. View the pages below to find out where and when to see them. How would you interpret the lemur skull, the Japanese wood panel or the psychologist’s toys?


  • 'Livingstone’s Medicine Chest'

    'Livingstone’s Medicine Chest'

    Burroughs Wellcome & Co. supplied the Swedish-American explorer Algot Lange with specially equipped medicine chests for his 1911 and 1913 Amazonian expeditions.

  • World created from toys in a tray of sand

    World created from toys in a tray of sand

    These toys were devised as an analytical tool by the English child psychologist and psychotherapist Margaret Lowenfeld.

  • Japanese xylarium bearing the seal of Chikusai Kato

    Japanese xylarium bearing the seal of Chikusai Kato

    Part of a series of 26, these Japanese panels are scientific specimens, made from the wood and framed in the bark of the trees represented. But at the same time, they are also examples of botanical art, featuring painted illustrations of the leaves, flowers and fruits.

  • Cranium and mandible of a giant lemur

    Cranium and mandible of a giant lemur

    Now extinct, the koala lemur was probably the size of a gorilla. It is one of the many species of this now rare primate that originated in Africa and arrived in Madagascar about 60 million years ago.

  • Dance paddle, Easter Island (Rapa Nui)

    Dance paddle, Easter Island (Rapa Nui)

    Used as part of a pair in seated ritual dances, possibly connected to fertility and to funerary rituals.


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