New L.A. Museum Draws Attention to Animal Rights

The National Museum of Animals & Society, a new museum in Los Angeles, has been featuring an active roster of exhibits and events focused on representing the animal protection movement.
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The National Museum of Animals & Society, a new museum in Los Angeles, has been featuring an active roster of exhibits and events focused on representing the animal protection movement.

"Other social movements---women's suffrage, civil rights, various labor movements--have museums, or sections of museums, dedicated to their causes. Yet there has never been any museum that focuses on animals and animal rights," says Carolyn Merino Mullin, founder of the museum and its executive director. "Beyond animal protection, which actually dates back centuries, we focus on events where animals and society intersect through the arts, humanities, science, and humane education."

Current Exhibits at Animals & Society
"Light in Dark Places" was their first exhibit this summer. (The exhibit is open one final weekend, closing on August 3.) The show, curated by writer and animal advocate Julia Orr, traces the history of the Anti-Vivisection movement from Victorian England to modern day.

The Anti-Vivisection Society was originally created to end various types of medical testing on animals. Experimenting on animals has been done through the ages, and pre-dated any type of anesthesia for humans or animals. The extent of inhumane treatment knew no bounds. Today Anti-Vivisection Societies still exist in this country and worldwide to fight to end animal testing done by medical and cosmetic groups.

The exhibit documented the involvement of notables such as Mark Twain and George Bernard Shaw, both of whom used their influence to stand up for this cause. Caroline Earle White (1833-1916) is among the many women who are highlighted. White is not a household name but she should be as she was the founder of the first animal shelter in the United States.

The next exhibit is "Dog, Cat, Mouse," which features work by three California artists showing the art they have produced featuring dogs, cats, and even a rodent. A percentage of the proceeds of any art sold will be donated to the SPCA of Los Angeles. The opening reception will be on August 9 at 7 p.m.

Other Exhibits of Interest
In addition to the exhibits in its Melrose location, the museum sends representatives into schools and they host field trips on site for parents, teachers, and educators. "Be Kind: A Visual History of Humane Education 1880-1945" is a particularly popular program. There is also a pop-up exhibit on this subject that can be sent out on loan.

"My Dog is my Home" was among the early exhibits at the Museum of Animals and Society and also exists as a traveling show. It tells the story of homeless people and their animal companions and the very important bond between them.

Perhaps the museum's most unusual exhibit was "Uncooped." This exhibit explored the origins of and the cultural attitudes towards one of the most common--yet most often overlooked--of all domesticated animals: the chicken. For this exhibit, the museum hosted a chicken adoption event and found homes for 93 rescue hens.

Enriching the Lives of Both Animals and People
Mullin says the goals of the museum also include "enriching the lives of animals and people." A year ago they coordinated the largest service fair on Skid Row for people and their pets. About 100 people attended. The animals received free grooming, veterinary care, food, and supplies. Food and supplies were donated and made available for the people as well. "Not only were dogs in attendance, but we saw several cats, two birds, and a giant bunny!"

The museum is located at 4302 Melrose, Los Angeles, but for those not in the Southern California area, there is a robust website to explore. Visit the National Museum of Animals and Society as well My Dog is My Home.

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