Colour: The Rainbow Revealed at the Horniman Museum

Our visit to the Horniman Museum this weekend transformed a drab, dreary day into one bursting with colour!

Colour: The Rainbow Revealed is the latest interactive exhibition for all the family at the Horniman Museum and Gardens in south London.

Credit: National Museums Liverpool

Colour is a great concept for a family exhibition, as even very young children show an interest in finding and naming colours. And there’s definitely enough content to interest older children too. Through hands-on exhibits and games, you can discover more about the science of colours, from their use in nature to warn off predators, to their emotional impact on people. Your kids won’t be short of things to do or buttons to press – from dressing up in camouflage clothing to creating their own colour wheel artwork you can email to yourself. Damian Hirst, eat your heart out.

There’s a Colour Cafe complete with side order of blue sausages, and a rather frightening giant eyeball which demonstrates how the human eye sees colour. The set of animal heads which show how they see differently were much more appealing.  Unfortunately the digital aquarium was not working during our visit, so Museum Girl’s digitally coloured fish never had the chance to swim. Completing the push button quiz on the social meaning of colours with Museum Boy made me realise how significance we associate with colours e.g. ‘green with envy’ are taught rather than innate.

Credit: National Museums Liverpool

A significant part of the display is about art, the origins of paint colours, and how artists interpret colour, but unfortunately this didn’t appeal to our children. Philistines.

Credit: National Museums Liverpool

The youngest child in our group (2) loved the tables with colouring, puzzles and books whilst the eldest (5) had to be forcibly removed from the ‘paint’ shooters at the colour wheel interactive.

Our 3 year old was absolutely fascinated by the two stoats, one with brown fur and another with white, inside a tree trunk. When you pressed a button, the background rolled from winter snowfall to a forest of autumnal brown leaves. She completely understood why their fur would change colour, even if she’s too young to say ‘camouflage’. Those stoats saw a lot of sudden weather changes, let me tell you – something I think we can all relate too right now!

My favourite part was the colour bath, or ‘mood room’, an immersive space where the lights and walls slowly change colour. Museum Dad and son took a good 10 minutes to experience it fully, and it definitely had an impact on their mood. Museum Boy had been *very* upset about losing some Lego, but this contemplative space had him quickly back in good humour, thank goodness.

Colour: the Rainbow Revealed is bright, bold and just the right side of busy. When you add to it all of the other family friendly parts of the museum, the Horniman makes for a brilliant family day out. The kids loved animal hunting in the Natural History gallery, playing tag around the glasshouse, and making music in the sound garden. We didn’t even have time to see the butterfly house or visit the animal farm! Next time, eh?

Final words go to Museum Boy. When I asked him what he learnt from Colour, he thought for a while then said ‘I learnt that colours can make you feel different ways. Yellow makes me feel like when I play hide and seek with my sister’ <insert heart eyes emoji here>.

Colour: The Rainbow Revealed runs at the Horniman Museum and Gardens until Sunday 28 October 2018.
Ticket prices: £4-8

For more information and to book tickets go to


Written by Vyki Sparkes AKA Museum Mum. Award-winning culture blogger, content creator, museum curator, podcaster, and mum to three. I’ve worked in museums for 18+ years, have a masters in museum studies, but more importantly, have been letting my kids loose in museums for decades. This blog shares all my hard-earned knowledge and experience.

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  1. May 4, 2018 / 7:43 am

    I took my youngest to this when it opens – it’s a colour-burst of fun and creativity for young ones. Museum Family certainly seemed to enjoy it!

  2. May 4, 2018 / 11:00 am

    I bet my son would love the paint shooters! I’ve never even heard of the Horniman museum but hopefully we can get to this before October.

  3. May 4, 2018 / 12:02 pm

    This looks great. Definitely going to look into and take my girls #culturedkids

  4. May 4, 2018 / 4:46 pm

    As part of the 20/20 train timetable change half the trains from our station will now go to London Bridge making the Horniman suddenly much easier to get to, so I have been planning a visit ….. is there an upper age limit on those paint shooters? #CulturedKids

  5. May 4, 2018 / 9:30 pm

    This museum always sounds great for kids – it’s a little awkward for us to get too but I really should make the effort #CulturedKids

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