A Museum of Man’s Best Friend, From Fossils to Virtual Reality | Modern Society of USA

A Museum of Man’s Best Friend, From Fossils to Virtual Reality

A Museum of Man’s Best Friend, From Fossils to Virtual Reality

Imagine the home of that person you know who loves dogs a little too much: figurines, stuffed animals, artwork that elevates house pets to the realm of saints.

Add cutting-edge touch-screen tables and a high-class Park Avenue address, and you more or less have the American Kennel Club’s Museum of the Dog, which recently moved to New York, its original home, after decades in the suburbs of St. Louis.

The airy museum, on the lowest floors of a tower near Grand Central Terminal, houses the American Kennel Club’s collection of art, artifacts and everything imaginable related to dogs: a Victorian dogcart, the parachute of a Yorkie who served in World War II, miniature models of an Austrian pug band. A vitrine holds an assortment of collars, including one used to deliver messages. There is even a 30-million-year-old fossil of an extinct dog ancestor.

“I keep telling people I want to get a mummy, though,” Alan Fausel, the museum’s executive director, said in an interview while conducting a tour of the museum. “You can’t have a better combination than dogs and mummies for kids.”

The one thing you won’t find here is a real dog, unless it’s a service animal. Because the museum is in an office building, it can’t allow pets inside. (Those who want to share art with their dogs might consider New York’s small galleries, many of which don’t mind them.)

Soon after entering, visitors can stand in front of a touch-screen monolith that takes their photo and matches them to the dog breed they most resemble. (I was a German pinscher, a revelation that has haunted me for days.) This is one of the many technology-rich fixtures installed by the architectural firm Gensler, which designed the new space with other interactive features, including an encyclopedia of the American Kennel Club’s nearly 200 recognized breeds, and a wall-size screen with a virtual-reality dog for training.

But the museum’s stars are its paintings and artifacts, like a portrait of President George H.W. Bush’s dog Millie on the White House lawn, accompanied by a signed letter from Barbara Bush. Here are five highlights from the collection.

After Joe’s death, his owner, Luke Turner, had the dog’s skeleton preserved and displayed at the Kennel Club in London. From there, it made its way to the Royal Veterinary College, where it was stored in a closet until an anatomy student found it. But Belgrave Joe found a forever home in the American Kennel Club, which acquired his skeleton in the 1930s and has exalted it ever since.

Rosseau came to painting in his 30s, after his life was upended by the Civil War, and he worked a series of unrelated jobs. His English setter Leda was the work’s subject. “This is a very powerful painting,” Mr. Fausel said. “Just look at the command of the brush stroke, especially on the fur of the dog.”

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