December 6, 2011
A few months ago, the Park City Museum acquired Matchstick, a life-sized Dalmatian that was made with 15,000 wooden matches.
The canine statue was created by Marin Abell, a 2008 Spiro Art artist in residence, and was given to the museum by Emily Pottruck.
Pottruck bought it during a 2009 auction that benefited Friends of Animals Utah.
Matchstick inspired the Park City Museum board of directors and staff to organize a pet exhibit called "Park City Pets: Our Lives with Animals" that will be on display through March.
"We came up with the idea of showing a locals pet exhibit after we got Matchstick, because we wanted to incorporate the sculpture in a display somehow," said the museum’s archivist Emily Beeson during an interview with The Park Record. "This is a fun exhibit because Park City has such a passion for animals in general, especially dogs. And the city features organizations like the Friends of Animals Utah and all the other nonprofit organizations that focus on taking care of animals."
In order to create a solid exhibit about pets, Beeson and the museum staff did some research regarding Park City’s relationship with animals.
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"Looking at out history, we found the city has always loved pets, but it was little different back in time," she said. "We didn’t have boutiques or doggy daycare centers or anything like that."
Some of the earliest examples of pets and animal care started with Park City’s mining history, Beeson said.
"The miners always joked the horses had better working conditions than they did because the animals worked less hours and were treated really well once they got into the shafts," she said. "We found photos of underground stables that showed where the horses were kept, groomed and fed, and the spaces looked pretty comfortable."
Lowering the horses into the mines was a chore, because workers couldn’t just strap the animals in a sling and lower them with a winch, Beeson explained. The horses legs and temperament were an issue.
"They actually had to find a way to fold and wrap the horses legs securely before they could do anything," she said. "Once the legs were folded safely and neatly, the horse was put inside a tear-shaped pouch and then lowered into the mines."
Also, since the shafts were narrow and the ceilings were low, using a conventional yoke was impractical.
"Our collections curator Courtney Titus found out that special yoke that was fastened on the horses hindquarters was used to hook the horses up to the carts in the tunnels," Beeson said.
While horses are historically important to the area, it’s the dog that most people think of most when they talk about Park City pets.
As far back as the early 1900s, the city had to regulate dogs for public safety, Beeson said.
"Registration came about after Park City had an on and off problem with rabies," she said. "Every time new people would move to the area there would be a rabies campaign."
A leash law was introduced to the community during the 1960s.
"When the hippies came, they brought their dogs and that became a problem because the dogs would wander humanless throughout the ski resorts," Beeson explained.
In order to pique an interest with children and families, the exhibit also features an interactive element that teaches how to adopt a pet.
"People can pick up a stuffed animal dog, cat, lizard and make a stop at three different stations that show them the importance of taking care of a pet," Beeson said. "They fill out an activity sheet and give the animal a name and go to the veterinarian station for a check up where they can weigh the animals do a mini checkup and then outfit the pet."
Park City veterinarian Dr. Keith Lund provided the museum with information about pet care, Beeson said.
"He came to Park City in the late 1970s to practice large animal veterinarian services, because in the 1980s, when people moved to Park City, they all felt they needed horses," she said. "Over the years, the demand reversed and now he practices on small animals."
Lund loaned the museum some X-rays of animals that swallowed pins, bottlecaps and fishooks.
"He also gave us a bunch of information about the development of pet medicines and how people are now getting pet insurance."
There are also outfits and other pet accessories made by people from around town, Beeson said.
In addition, the exhibit includes an area where people can make animals out of pipe cleaners, write things about their pets and participate in a pet census.
"So far we have everything from dogs, cats, fish, horses, reptiles and a category called other," Beeson said. "I wonder what ‘other’ means?"
"Park City Pets: Our Lives with Animals" will be on display at the Park City Museum, 528 Main St., through mid March, 2012. The exhibit will be taken down during the Sundance Film Festival, Jan. 19 though Jan 29, but up Jan. 30. Admission is free for museum members and $10 for nonmember adults and $5 for nonmember children. In connection with the "Park City Pets: Our Lives with Animals" exhibit that is currently on display, will present free children’s story times about pet and animals on Wednesday, Dec. 14, and Wednesday, Feb. 8. Both sessions will begin at 10 a.m.
Hours are Mondays through Saturdays, 11 a.m. until 6 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 6 p.m. For more information, visit http://www.parkcityhistory.org.