The grand opening date may still be in question, but the mission is not.
The Animal History Museum is the first museum dedicated to understanding and celebrating the human-animal bond. Its purpose is to serve and educate the public through the creation of a museum in Los Angeles County, California, for the collection, preservation and exploration of the history, culture, science, and law relating to the relationship between human and non-human animals; by presenting exhibitions, lectures and other activities that are consistent with, and supportive of, the museum’s educational goals and purpose.
I spoke with Amy Breyer, Executive Director and President of the museum’s Board of Trustees, about how the museum was conceived, what it’s all about, and what the status is on the grand opening. Ms. Breyer has spent most of her career in Chicago practicing animal law, and I got the feeling from her that however stressful working on a museum opening may be, she feels like it’s a breath of fresh air. She said that though she didn’t wish to practice litigation any longer–after opening and running Illinois’ first animal law practice–she wanted to “bring up these concepts in a non-confrontational setting.” Her passion for the project is insatiable, and she’s humble as can be. Though the museum is her brain-child, she was much more comfortable talking about the elite team of “pioneering individuals in all disciplines related to animals” that she has surrounded herself with. “It’s a privilege to know these people,” she said.
Ms. Breyer began working on the Los Angeles-area (a specific site is still in the works) museum with her founding board, and though the museum is not yet a physical building, after speaking to Breyer and looking over their online exhibits, I feel as if I’ve already visited it. Breyer is warm and smart and informative, which is exactly what I imagine the Animal History Museum to be.
So what’s the scoop? Breyer and her team are in various stages of discussion regarding pinning down a site for the physical museum. She’s not exactly sure when it will open, but projects that we won’t have to wait much longer. In the meantime, the online gallery her team has curated is nothing short of spectacular. The online gallery currently has six exhibits including fine art, historical photography, and even art and stories culminating from social media.
I asked Breyer about these non-traditional exhibits that were curated from social media. She explained that the exhibits Breaking Stereotypes: America’s Pit Bull Rescues & the Human-Animal Bond and Single, Experienced Animal Seeks Mature, Loving Relationship: Stories of Older Animal Adoption were a surprising result of Facebook contests. The Animal History Museum received such an overwhelming number of quality submissions that the sensation evolved into a community, of sorts, from which the exhibitions were born. I found this fascinating both in the role that social media can play in the development of such an exhibition and how open Breyer is to taking advantage of societal trends to create exhibits that people will not only be naturally drawn to, but that they can participate in, all in the name of animals.
Both these innovative exhibitions and the museum’s more traditional exhibitions will be featured online and in the museum, some on a rotating basis, and some permanent. Even when the physical museum opens, Breyer plans to continue to grow the online gallery, both as a support to the museum and as its own entity with separate, unique content. Upon entering the online gallery, the museum’s Web site states:
The Animal History Museum plans to make its online gallery an important part of its mission–both as a way of giving you, our guest a taste of what the brick-and-mortar museum will offer once it opens–as well as growing along side it once the museum opens its doors as a vibrant, integral complement to our physical collections.
Like our brick-and-mortar plans, the online gallery will feature both permanent collections as well as rotating ones. We believe it to be the first permanent, virtual museum collection dedicated to all things animal anywhere in the world.
Throughout my conversation with Breyer, she was reluctant to toot her own horn, and quick to highlight the efforts of her contributors, scholars from all over the English-speaking world. “No one person is a museum all to themselves,” she stated. Aside from being pioneers in their chosen field, these initial contributors–now two dozen individuals–”didn’t have a place to put their work in front of a mainstream audience,” Breyer explained. Some of these individuals are highly specialized and are doing groundbreaking work, so to have them contribute to this collection and to be able to see all of their efforts come together is quite special.
Breyer holds all of her contributers in high regard and mentioned Piers Locke as an excellent example of the pioneering work these people are doing. She explained to me that Locke is instrumental in creating a new field, that of elephantology. Though Breyer is well-versed in Locke’s work, she spoke about this emerging field like an excited little girl as she shared information with me regarding these studies in human/elephant interaction, including the elephant’s role as worker, protector, and companion. Her passion shone. As a New Zealand-lecturer in Anthropology, Locke has found a new audience with the Animal History Museum. The museum Web site describes that Locke
is pioneering the nascent field of elepantology, through his efforts conducting historical and ethnographic research involving elephant and human communities in Chitwan, Nepal since 2001. This research raises issues in: apprenticeship learning and expert knowledge, practice and identity in total institutions, human-animal intimacies and the ritual veneration of elephants, and the role of captive elephant management in nature tourism, protected area management and biodiversity conservation.
It’s no wonder Breyer is so excited about the work contributors such as Locke are doing.
What’s next? The museum is currently working on an exhibit of Seth Casteel‘s Underwater Dogs, scheduled to open this month in the online gallery.
In it’s quest to open the facility, the Animal History Museum is offering the public opportunities to contribute. An especially exciting and attainable opportunity is to become a “Founding Member.” By joining for as little as $30 per year, you can help this museum and receive gifts available to only to members who join during the initial fundraising drive. And your annual membership won’t begin until the doors open. Large donor opportunities and corporate sponsorships are also available.
I, for one, can’t wait for the Animal History Museum to open! Until then, my family and I are enjoying all that the Web site galleries have to offer.
Have you seen it?
I’m out of touch with what’s gone viral and what hasn’t, and I don’t make a habit of sharing viral videos to generate traffic or whatever it might do. And I don’t know the original source, so I can’t cite it. And I don’t know the people who took this video, or I’d be contacting them and kissing them. I just want you to see it.
So, what do I know?
I viewed this video a couple of months ago and didn’t feel worthy to share it. I’m not sure why. Maybe because it’s so spectacular.
I now feel that everyone should see it, damn the torpedoes!
I challenge you to watch it without laughing and crying at the same time. It’s the kind of laughing-through-the-tears video that we all need sometimes. No…I’m not on my period.
My friend, April, recently posted on Facebook that she always mutes the TV when the ASPCA commercial comes on because it brings her to tears. She asked if anyone else mutes the TV. She got an overwhelming response, and no one said “I always watch them and then call in to donate money.” Responses ranged from “I turn the TV off,” to “I change the channel,” to “I fast forward on my DVR.” I explained that I shut my eyes, plug my ears, and sing “la la la, la la la, la la la…” My conclusion was that not too many people are watching these commercials, and my friend who started the post asked how effective the commercials could be if everyone was turning away.
That got me thinking. Us die-hard animal lovers probably already donate to some sort of animal-saving organization, perhaps local or, in all likelihood, the ASPCA. We know the horrors because we probably think about all the animals we can’t save on a daily basis. We volunteer hours and we open our pocketbooks. We even write blog posts. Most of us can’t bear to watch, and certainly can’t keep the tears at bay when Willie Nelson sings to us about love as the pitiful, sad faces in cages stream across our TVs.
I found the ASPCA commercial that is currently airing with Willie Nelson and Kim Rhodes on iSpot.tv:
When I pulled up the commercial on the computer for the purpose of this post, the littles even had a strong reaction. Campbell, my 4-year-old daughter, said “awww” every time the picture changed, and then declared “we have to save all those animals. I want to get them all.” Yeah, Cam. Me, too.
Porter, my six-year-old son, said “those animals all need our help? When can we get a cat?” Once again, I explained to him why we don’t have a cat.
And, of course, I was crying. These commercials are depressing. Does anyone actually watch them?
iSpot.tv is pretty cool because you can track the statistics on the commercials. Like when it last aired and how many times it’s aired and which programs it interrupts. What you can’t track is how effective it is. In a 2010 blog post, writer Franny Syufy reported that she asked the ASPCA directly about just that and they responded that “the ASPCA measures our success by the number of animals we are able to help and by how efficient we are at raising the money that allows us to help those animals.” They went on to say that they see significant revenue growth surrounding these ad campaigns. Yes, the same ones that are making most people I talk to turn away. So it appears that they do produce enough revenue to justify the cost of advertising. I won’t get into the debate about whether or not the ASPCA is a good organization to donate to because we all have our opinions about whether we should donate to national or local organizations. Suffice it to say that the ASPCA is a highly rated charity. Donating to a legitimate charity is a wonderful thing to do and a personal choice.
So I’m thinking these commercials can’t be targeting people like April and I (and all of her Facebook friends), because we’re just turning them off. We already understand the atrocities and don’t wish to be saddened further. So who do these commercials target? Who knows? But somebody is watching and donating because of them, or the ASPCA wouldn’t keep airing them, right? For those of us who don’t turn away, pulling at our heartstrings is effective.
But why not add a bit of positive into this advertising campaign? April put it perfectly:
I would much rather them show heart-warming stories of animals that have been impacted by the support. Showing them in loving homes, etc. I think that would have a much better impact than sad music, injured animals and stories of them being tortured.
She makes a great point, doesn’t she? I would totally watch a commercial like that!
Whether you’re turning away or opening your pockets, both, or neither, find a cause that you can support wholeheartedly and go for it! Helping animals in need, or anyone or anything in need just makes you feel good, even if the commercials make you want to hang yourself.
Blog Paws has designated August as senior pet month and has provided this informative graphic to illustrate the importance of senior pet care and some interesting statistics about our aging animals.
Whenever you are considering adopting a pet, it is just as important to consider their life span and care they will possibly need as they age. Knowing your pet’s life expectancy and common health issues for the type or breed is key in determining if the pet is a good fit for your family. It is important to remember that your pet won’t be that cute little baby for long!
There are many senior pets available for adoption, and they can make excellent additions to your family! Although you miss out on the baby book photos, there are definite advantages to a senior pet. The shelter or foster family can often provide you valuable information about temperament and behavior, so you’ll know if the pet gets along well with other animals or with children. Senior pets are usually not as active as younger animals, so exercise requirements and energy levels may be a great match for some families. And, best of all, your adopted senior may already be potty trained or know some fun tricks. Older and wiser is a great thing.
There are organizations nationwide that specialize in the care and adoption of senior pets, so consider that option if you’re looking to grow your family!
You know that photographer who does the awesome photos of dogs underwater? You’ve likely seen them and shared them…
That photographer is Seth Casteel, and he does more than just take groundbreaking photos of pets. He does groundbreaking work for pets.
In addition to his life as a world-renowned photographer and New York Times Best Selling Author, in 2007, he started volunteer work to help homeless pets find loving families. Through photography, he showcases these animals-in-need in a positive light that captures their true personalities. Casteel created a Web site, Second Chance Photos, that is dedicated to this quest. The Web site explains
When a dog or cat arrives at an animal shelter, it often is scared, dirty and disoriented. As part of the intake process, the animal has their photo taken, and this untimely photo is the face that people see when looking to potentially adopt a pet. An inaccurate headshot can hurt its chances of adoption, but an uplifting, hopeful portrait can save its life.
Check out this before & after:
AMAZING, right? Which dog would you be more likely to adopt? Wait–it’s the same dog!
The Second Chance Photos Web site aims to educate shelter photographers, offering technical guidance and even a free pdf of shelter pet photography tips. Another goal of the organization is to increase awareness about rescue and adoption. Second Chance Photos also orchestrates fundraisers so shelters can purchase better photography equipment. Casteel and Second Chance Photos also conduct workshops for shelters.