Regular visitors to the Museum will have noticed a certain Shetland Pony hasn’t been seen for a while. After living in Knaresborough Zoo during the 1980s, Mandy went on to spend over 10 years on display as touchable taxidermy – admired, adored and stroked until she could take no more. With the arrival of our new Sensing Evolution displays, it was time for a revamp and Mandy has gone into retirement. But, as our Community Outreach Officers explain, she’s now embarked on a brand new adventure…
Mandy hasn’t disappeared! Instead of being in the Museum of Natural History, she now comes out to community family events with Oxford University Museums’ outreach team. This summer she has been all around Oxfordshire at Playdays, organised with Oxfordshire Play Association, and also with us at community festivals such as the Cowley Road Carnival and the Leys Festival. These brilliant indoor and outdoor activities are completely free for everyone to attend.
Oxfordshire Playdays offer children the support, space and resources to develop play and explore other activities available in Oxfordshire. The carnivals celebrate the places, spaces and communities in which we live, offering people an opportunity to be part of their local community.
At these events Mandy has pride of place in front of the museums’ outreach gazebo, so everyone can see her. The outreach team represent all the Oxford University Museums and Collections, giving people a flavour of what they can find. So, along with an elephant’s tooth, Megalosaurus footprint and Madagascan Hissing Cockroaches, Mandy comes with us to represent the Museum of Natural History. Once people give Mandy a stroke, they often come and hold a Cockroach or talk to the Outreach Officers about the other objects.
When parents, children (and dogs!) see Mandy, they are delighted. A lot recognise her from the Museum of Natural History, but others are just drawn to her soft, cuddly fur. Lots of children stroke her, pretend to feed her and put their teddies on her to give them a ride. Often we hear:
It’s the horse from the museum! Is she alive? How did she die? Where did she live?
So Mandy has not been forgotten. Instead she’s roaming Oxfordshire, bringing smiles to lots of children’s faces and has become a very valued member of Oxford University Museums’ outreach team!
Nicola Bird and Susan Griffiths, Community Outreach Officers