The Victorian era witnessed the rise of animal protection, zoos, veterinary medicine, cattle and sheep breeding, vegetarianism, antivivisection, pet keeping, and dog and cat shows. But it also beheld big game hunting, blood sports, animal abuse, a burgeoning fashion industry that threatened animal populations, and widespread fears of our animal ancestry, sparked by Darwinian evolution. This exhibition explores this Victorian menagerie that puts humans and animals on display.
Students in Dr. Catherine J. Golden’s EN 228H course entitled “The Victorian Illustrated Book” created five cases (four in the Harris Lobby and one in the Pohndorff Room) that exhibit these human-animal interactions in culture and literature with particular attention to animal protection and endangerment, domination over the animal kingdom, humanized animals, and fantastical creatures (flying horses, mermaids, and magical hares).
In each case, we witness animals as an indelible part of Victorian life and culture, but also as a crucial part of nineteenth-century thought. Animals serve as metaphors for the imagination, psychological needs, sociopolitical aspirations, and imperialism.
The exhibit will be on display until June 14, 2013.