Spotlights Early Maryland Pets
The Johns Hopkins University's Homewood Museum presents a winter focus exhibition, "Feathers, Fins, and Fur: The Pet in Early Maryland," opening with a free reception from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 4, 2007, and continuing through Saturday, March 31, 2007.
The exhibition was organized in partnership with the Maryland SPCA, a private, non-profit organization whose mission is to improve the lives of pets and people in the community by fostering healthy animal-human relationships. It is the culmination of an undergraduate seminar at Johns Hopkins — Introduction to Material Culture: The Pet in Early America — co-taught during the fall 2006 semester in Homewood's original wine cellar by Catherine Rogers Arthur, curator of Homewood, and Stewart "Bill" Leslie, a professor in the Department of History of Science and Technology.
The seminar was part of the Johns Hopkins University's newly created Museums and Society Program, an interdisciplinary course of study leading to a minor degree that offers undergraduates significant opportunities to establish meaningful connections with local and regional museums. "With this class, I now have 10 research assistants, and the investigation and production of an exhibition have become tools for teaching," Arthur said. "It is exciting working with the students, and I eagerly anticipate each class to hear about their research finds and creative ideas for installation and interpretation."
Drawing on correspondence, probate inventories, newspapers ads, journals and a rich array of visual materials, "Feathers, Fins, and Fur" explores views of the pets and livestock that were part of early Maryland's scenery, and especially of Homewood, the 1801 country house of the Carroll family. The students assisted in organizing and curating the exhibition, in addition to the more practical aspects of exhibition production. "It's not just about research," said Lauren Strelec, a senior majoring in the history of science and technology. "We do that, but we are also hunting down artifacts, coordinating displays, and consulting with designers to create a catalogue."
From engraved silver to spike-studded leather collars, this collaborative exhibition offers a unique opportunity to study the practices of pet-keeping in early Maryland, exploring not only how the often complicated relationships between animals and their owners were defined and observed, but how this early 19th century understanding of animal companionship compares to that of today. "We're looking at a popular, contemporary topic through the eyes of early Americans," observed Sandra Lackovic, a pre-vet senior majoring in behavioral biology.
Divided into several sections, the exhibition treats both specific kinds of pets — including cats, dogs, bird, fish, horses, and rodents — and related themes such as early veterinary practices, wild animal domestication, the affiliation between children and pets, and animal idioms. In addition to a variety of early dog collars, early American recipes for pet food, antique cages for small animals, and fishbowls also will be on display.
A series of programs and gallery talks will augment the exhibition, on view to visitors during regularly scheduled guided tours of the museum, offered every half hour from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday - Friday, and noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday (the last tour departs at 3:30 p.m.). Admission to the exhibition and related programs is free with regular museum admission: $6 adults, $5 seniors, $3 students and children 6 and up, free for museum members and JHU affiliates with ID. Free museum admission will also be granted to any visitor who brings in an item from the Maryland SPCA's Animal Wish List — including pet food, toys, and cleaning products — for the duration of the exhibition. The list is available on the Maryland SPCA's Web site at www.mdspca.org or by calling Homewood at 410-516-0341. Homewood Museum is located on the Homewood Campus of the Johns Hopkins University at 3400 N. Charles St. in North Baltimore. For more information, the public may call 410- 516-0341 or visit www.jhu.edu/historichouses.
Significant funding for the exhibition was provided by Anne Merrick Pinkard, whose generous contribution to Homewood also makes it possible for the undergraduate seminar in material culture to be repeated in successive years, with different topics contributing to an ongoing understanding of early 19th-century life at Homewood.
Note to editors: High resolution photos of the student curators in action are available by e-mailing Amy Lunday at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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