I was asked to provide a list of my top 5 picks in the field of animal history (or human-animal histories as I normally refer to it). It was a really tough list to make! On any given day I could come up with a completely different list of books that have inspired me in this field. And I hate that I had to limit it to only five books, although as you will see, I managed to sneak in a few more. This is a growing, shifting, and changing field, and I am so excited for all the work that is being done in human-animal history right now. If you are curious about human-animal histories this list will get you started, but there are so many other good books and articles to read too. I’d love to hear what your favourites are!
Upcoming talk in Guelph
I am really honoured to have been invited by Dr. Sally Hickson to speak at the University of Guelph later this month as part of their art history speaker series. The event takes place on Tuesday, November 19th at 5:30. More details below.
If you are in the Guelph area, please drop by and say hi!
A Convivial Afternoon of Humane History & Merriment
Next month I will be taking part in a really fun event, an event billed as a “convivial afternoon of humane history and merriment.” This event is hosted by the fabulous National Museum of Animals & Society and will be taking place at the Velaslavasay Panorama in LA.
I will be speaking about the role of visual culture in humane education, with a specific focus on the late 19th- and early 20th- century. In addition to my talk there will be other activities taking place, including temporary exhibits, and crafts. I also hear there will be some yummy vegan snacks at this event.
If you are anywhere near LA I hope you are able to join us for a fun day at this amazing venue!
Living With Animals Conference
Last month I travelled down to Richmond, Kentucky to participate in the “Living With Animals” conference at EKU. It was a fabulous conference and I was really glad to have been part of it. The only disappointing part was the weather–I had been hoping for a little warm weather and sunshine, but during the conference the weather in Kentucky was pretty much identical to the weather in Southern Ontario: chilly, windy, overcast. I even saw snowflakes in the air one day! The poor spring flowers and blooms seemed a bit shocked!
Weather aside, it was a fabulous trip and a fabulous conference. Huge congrats to the organizers, Robert Mitchell and Julia Schlosser, on the event!
There were so many great papers and keynote addresses that it would be impossible for me to write about them all here, but some that I found to be especially thought-provoking include:
- Margo DeMello‘s keynote address on using videos and images in animal studies classes
- Mary Shannon Johnstone‘s presentation on her photographic work, including her incredible project entitled “Landfill Dogs“
- Christina Colvin’s presentation on the practice of pet taxidermy
- Monica Mattfeld’s presentation on the memorialization of “The Spanish Horse” in 18th century London
- Brett Mizelle‘s presentation on the culture of butchers and slaughterhouses in the late-19th and early-20th centuries
- L.A. Watson‘s discussion of the fabulous National Museum of Animals & Society as well as her own artwork which will be featured in an upcoming NMAS exhibition
I presented in the “Teaching With Animals” stream of the conference, and gave a presentation on my class, VISA 3P98: Picturing Animals.” I talked about some of the different themes we cover in this class, as well as the challenges and rewards of teaching “animal studies” in an art department. I certainly enjoyed the opportunity to talk with others who are teaching similar topics in their respective departments, centres, and schools. To that end, I was especially appreciative of the “break out” sessions that were scheduled around different issues to do with teaching. I will admit that the phrase “break out session” usually has me heading for the hills, but in this case it was a very interesting and valuable exchange of ideas and course outlines. I also found the panel discussion on “Teaching With Animals” (moderated by Brett Mizelle and featuring Margo DeMello, Robert Mitchell, Kenneth Shapiro, and Kari Weil) to be very enlightening, particularly around the issue of setting up programs in animal studies at the college and university level.
I have had enough of airports in recent months, so this was a road trip! What an interesting way to see the country. We broke the trip up in to two days, and the first night we stopped in Columbus, OH. We specifically planned our route so that we could check out Hal & Al’s, a fabulously quirky bar that has both an incredible selection of craft brews AND an all-vegan menu. Our plans for stopping there on the way back through were scuttled as we adjusted our travel to avoid Winter Storm Virgil. (since when do we name winter storms?) We did, however, stop in Detroit for a vegan brunch at PJ’s Lager House. It was another funky little bar with fabulous vegan food! We need more of these kinds of places in Canada! Once of the best parts about PJ’s was the resident dog, a beautiful pit-cross named Sugar. She was so friendly and gentle, just walking around saying hello to everyone having brunch. It makes me so angry that a beautiful dog like this would be “illegal” in Ontario.
I am delighted to be part of the new online magazine published by Our Hen House. For years I have been a huge fan of the incredibly important work that Jasmin Singer and Mariann Sullivan have done through this site, so it is a tremendous honour to be a columnist for their new magazine.
My column is called “Picturing Animals,” and focuses on the ways in which art and visual culture can be an important part of animal advocacy efforts. In this column I will be writing about how activists use imagery today, but will also be considering examples of art and visual culture used by activists in previous eras as I think it is important to draw connections between the history of animal advocacy and what is being done today.
I am very excited about the opportunity to write this column–I had been wanting to do more writing that blends activism and academic work, so this is a perfect fit. I’m also really happy to be part of the Our Hen House team. Jasmin and Mariann bring an “indefatigably positive” spirit to the work they do, and I find this tremendously encouraging. Activism can be a tough, lonely, and discouraging road (heck, so can academia!), and it is so easy to get burnt out. However, without fail, every single time I listen to an Our Hen House podcast or hear these two talented women speak I feel inspired to do more, to work harder to help make a difference for animals.
I was honoured to be asked to curate an online exhibit on the subject of “Humane Education” for the National Museum of Animals & Society (NMAS) this year. After several months of research and preparation, the exhibit is now live. I enjoyed working on this project, thrilled to have had the opportunity to bring this story to a broader audience. So many people helped make this exhibit a reality, and I’m so grateful for all of their kindness, hard work, and generosity.
The NMAS is a wonderful museum dedicated to preserving the history of human-animal relationships, a history that has until very recently been woefully neglected by curators, historians, and academics. This is an important history, and the work that the NMAS is doing is so valuable. If you have any artefacts relating to the history of human-animal relationships or advocacy campaigns from previous eras that you would like to donate to the museum, they would love to hear from you!
The Professor is In(nocent)?
A colleague recently introduced me to the world of academic mysteries. I’d encountered some of these books from time to time before but had not really stopped to consider that there might be a whole sub-genre of sleuthing profs out there. I began with Joanne Dobson’s Karen Pelletier mysteries, but apparently there are many, many more out there just waiting to be devoured.