Since awakening to animal rights issues I’ve been steadily reading books that document the evolving (and too often tragic) relationships between humans and animals. And while books have a role to play in opening our eyes, there are so many other avenues to explore. Which is why I was thrilled to discover the Animal History Museum, a relatively new initiative based in Los Angeles.
Executive Director Amy Breyer was kind enough to answer a few of my questions. Here they are…
Q: What is the mission of the Animal History Museum?
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, and by presenting exhibitions, lectures, and other activities that are consistent with, and supportive of, the museum’s educational goals and purpose.
Our goal is to create a place for the thoughtful exploration of one of the most complex and enduring – but historically trivialized – aspects of civilization: the human’s relationship with (non-human) animals. We plan to examine the various issues surrounding the human-animal bond; the history of animals in society, in art and literature, animal welfare, rights and law; as well as various other cultural topics in a way that will hopefully raise awareness and provide the opportunity for visitors to think more carefully about society’s – and their own – interactions with, and treatment of, animals.
Q: What have been your most popular exhibits so far?
Our online exhibit: Breaking Stereotypes: America’s Pit Bull Rescues and the Human-Animal Bond
This exhibit was crowd-sourced from a Facebook event we ran during spring 2012. We received more than 100 entries, and hundreds of people voted for the winning entry that’s going to become one of the human interest stories that will help illustrate our human-animal bond exhibit.
Q: And what exhibits do you have planned?
We have an online exhibit planned for later this spring examining the complex relationship between people and yaks in the Tibetan highlands. Yaks fill many roles in this desolate region of the earth, from a source of companionship to wool to food. This exhibit is not yet titled.
Q: How you came to be involved with the museum?
The museum was really the evolution of my work as an animal law attorney in Chicago. It became painfully clear after a number of years that no matter how solid a case I had, judges and juries just weren’t ready to “go there” when it came to recognizing that non-human lives had value. By the time someone is sitting on the bench or in a jury box, the perspectives and experiences they bring with them will shape the outcome of any matter. When I moved to California for personal reasons in 2010, I started to think about how to engage the public in a non-confrontational exploration of animal issues to help inform those perspectives. Whether someone is serving as a juror or doing anything else, they should be able to have a frame of reference for the important roles that animals play in our lives and societies that includes more than just the trivializing stereotypes rooted in our past. The museum format was a natural fit.
Q: How can people help support the museum?
Please donate! Visit www.animalhistorymuseum.org and look to the “Join Us” tab to purchase a membership or make a donation. There are also opportunities to volunteer time, skills (i.e., construction) or equipment (exhibit technology) or donate a collection of art or artifacts. Have something to share not mentioned here? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s talk!
Q: Where do you see the museum five years from now?
We hope to have our brick-and-mortar space long since open and be part of the landscape of L.A. museums for residents and tourists to enjoy!