Local Animal History Unleashed in New Exhibition

By April Bryan,
Curator, Vicksburg Historical Society

Animals play a significant role in Vicksburg’s history.

Wild animals shared the land with the Potawatomi and provided them with food, skins, and protection. Horses brought settlers such as John Vickers to Kalamazoo County and proved essential to local agriculture. Our downtown dogs and cats are more than pets – they serve as furry ambassadors for many Main Street businesses today. How did our relationships with and views on animals change over time? How have animals moved from the wild into our hearts and homes?

A special exhibition answering some of those questions opens in the Historic Village’s Township Hall on Thursday, August 31 and runs through Sunday, October 29 with free admission Wednesday through Sunday, 1-5 p.m. The location is ADA-accessible.

A reading nook where the exhibition is housed at the Historical Society will provide a comfortable space for families to enjoy an animal tale or two. Children may dress up as their favorite animal friends and color pups and kittens from historic coloring books.

Seen through a local lens and using artifacts and images from its permanent collection as well as those on loan from Alamo Township Museum, the exhibition, Dog House to House Dog: The Changing Roles of the Animals in Our Lives, explores animals as protectors, producers, providers, and pets. Our changing perceptions about them are highlighted through examples of art, advertisements, products, and pop culture.

What impact did mechanization have on animal agricultural roles? How did Vicksburg’s Joseph Frakes immortalize his prized racing horse? Who was Main Street’s Stub the Cat and how did he win a medal? Discover the stories of exotic pets, such as the monkey who lived across the street from Old El, and memorable moments including the day a Prairie Street Saint Bernard went through a picture window after the postman. Animal-related books, films and toys are considered and an eye-opening dog’s life timeline shows the progress from doghouse to house dog. With its snapshot wall, the exhibition takes a nostalgic look at our community’s beloved pets, past and present.

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