How many pets live in museums?
For more than a century visitors have marvelled at the Hermitage Museum’s precious collections, and for just as long dozens of cats have prowled the Saint Petersburg palace’s sprawling cellars.
The felines have one main task – to root out unwanted guests: rodents. The 70-odd brigade have their claws so deep into the history of Russia’s largest museum, and one of the world’s oldest, that there is even a special feline unit dedicated to their welfare.
By the time Catherine the Great took power in 1762, the felines had become official residents. They were even dubbed the Winter Palace cats, after the royal residence that has now become part of the museum.
They survived successive wars, invasion by Napoleon’s forces and even the revolution that overthrew Tsarist rule.
During World War II, however, the cats did not make it through the 1941-1944 Nazi siege of Leningrad, the city’s name under Soviet rule. The city’s famished population had no choice but to eat their pets in order to survive.
Legend has it that the palace’s feline guard was brought back to life when World War II ended, when new recruits were brought in by train from all over Russia.
By the 1960s, there were so many cats at the Hermitage that the authorities decided it would be best to abandon them.
Yet the rat population proliferated and a few years later the cats again found their place.
Have you met Jack, who is photographed having a stretch during his shift at the Lambton Heritage Museum in Lambton Shores?
There is also this devout cat who lives in a fourteen hundred year old museum called Hagia Sophia in Turkey, guarding and preserving its religious and cultural history every single day. His name is Gli. He is slightly cross eyed but a whole lot of cute. Besides watching guards, gardeners and keeping them supervised, Gli greets tourists and enjoys being photographed by them at the museum.
Photo from Isle of Wight County Museum licensed CC BY-SA 3.0
Of course I must add a pet ham–but it’s not just any ham (you knew I would have to throw some humour in here). This ham in particular (named, you guessed it… Ham) is 113 years old and lives in a museum in Virginia as the world’s oldest cured ham. The story goes that Ham was left to “cure” (be preserved to be eaten later) in 1902 in a meat packing plant and was forgotten. Eventually P.D. Gwaltney Jr. found it and decided to make it his pet. He had a collar made for it and took it everywhere he went. Now the ham, which you could probably still eat, sits in the museum. You used to be able to watch it on a live web cam! The ham was also featured in Ripley’s “Believe It Or Not” in 1929, 1932 and 2003.
So what about locally?
Well look who just became part of the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum in Almonte…
Michael Rikley-Lancaster has added something new to the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum, and it’s not just the new Colour Unboxed show coming up soon. (More on that this week)
Nevil is giving me “a close-up Mr. Deville” and wondering what I could possibly add to his territory.
This is Nevil and he is our local addition to the series of “pets in museums”. Nevil is a rescue dog, about 5 years old, and has fit right in as canine curator of the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum . He loves participating in the new exhibits, which I saw in action, and greeting people. Did I mention he loves lots of attention and is beloved by all at the museum?
Michael Rikley-Lancaster and Nevil opening up the door to hallowed ground.
Animals have become stars in their own right in museums, and they have become hugely popular with the many tourists who visit each year. Visitors also snap up souvenirs and postcards adorned with their adorable faces on sale in the museum gift shops. So who knows, maybe down the line Nevil will be gracing some coffee mugs for sale at the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum. You just never know!
Come say HI to Nevil and everyone at the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum.
Michael Rikley-Lancaster and Nevil in a Rosamond masterpiece pose.
Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read.
Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in Hometown News