Quirky Museums Liven Up the Animal Kingdom

Cat With Sailor
Courtesy of the Museum of Maritime Pets

Ahoy, Matey

The Museum of Maritime Pets in Annapolis, Md., aims to honor animals who sailed the high seas. It’s the brainchild of Maryland resident Pat Sullivan, who owns a pet-sitting business and has spent years collecting photographs, books, diaries and artwork about maritime pets. She has registered the museum as a nonprofit and assembled volunteers and a board of directors. She plans to open a physical museum soon.

"It's known that as soon as man went to sea thousands of years ago, he usually had animals with him," Sullivan says. "So it's not only of historic interest, but it's also a very emotional story to tell, too: Why has man found it comforting to have animals with him at sea?"

For now, the material is presented in lectures the museum hosts about history and current animal welfare issues, and online at a website Sullivan started in 2006. The museum will feature stories of ship mascots, military carrier pigeons and pets who offered companionship to sailors recovering from battle wounds. Among the featured animals is a famous mixed-breed dog named Sinbad, who served during World War II on the Coast Guard cutter Campbell and achieved the rank of chief petty officer.

Sex, Crime — and Mummies?

You might be surprised by the range of museums that feature animal exhibits:

  • The Museum of Crime and Punishment in Washington, D.C., will open a temporary exhibit next month called "Crimes Against Marine Life." The display honors the 40th anniversary of the passage of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and warns of the dangers of shark finning and sea pollution. Visitors will learn how plastic, trash and discarded fishing nets kill millions of animals each year and how law enforcement treats these crimes against marine species.
  • Since 2008, New York City’s Museum of Sex has included an exhibit called "The Sex Lives of Animals." And we’re not just talking about reproduction here. “Sex in the animal kingdom is as multifarious and nuanced as it is in the human realm; and sex-for-pleasure, it seems, is not just restricted to Homo sapiens,” the exhibit explains. The exhibit shows off the birds and the bees of the animal kingdom with life-sized sculptures of, yes, animals having sex.
  • The Animal Mummy Project catalogs the mummified creatures at the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, located in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. The team works to discover more about now-extinct species and veterinary practices in ancient Egypt. It also studies which animals were sacrificed in religious ceremonies and which ones may have been kept as domesticated pets, like dogs or sacred rams.

Check out this video about the Presidential Pet Museum, and tell us: What quirky animal museum would you like to see open next?

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