My Favourite Books on Animal History

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!

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.

 

sugar (detroit)

Be Kind

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!