The Curious Incident of the Brown Dog

I was recently interviewed on Radio 4 in a programme about the history of vivisection.

You can listen to the programme here.

Or, you can read an earlier blog post I wrote about the little brown dog here.

Scenes from student life

The seemingly innocuous statue of a small dog, in Battersea Park in London, was the focus of some of the most vocal and violent anti-vivisection protests. Ellie Cawthorne explores the infamous Brown Dog Riots, when anti-vivisectionists fought students in a row over the methodology of training medical students.

On 10 December 1907, 1,000 medical students marched through London waving effigies of a brown dog, clashing with suffragettes, trade unionists and police. The protest was triggered by allegations that, in February 1903, William Bayliss of the Department of Physiology at University College London cruelly performed an allegedly illegal dissection, before an audience of 60 medical students, on an inadequately anaesthetised brown terrier dog.

This was just one of the series of infamous and influential Brown Dog riots which continued over seven years. They changed the shaped of scientific education and research, and transformed how medical students are trained.

Frozen in time?

This blog post was written following the Objects in Motion conference, held at CRASSH, University of Cambridge.

We often imagine that museum objects end their lives when they enter a collection. At the Objects in Motion conference, there was much discussion over whether museum collections are alive, dead, or just resting. Often museum objects have been through a long journey – from their native setting or perhaps another kind of a life to being stripped of their context, given a label and an identification number and placed reverently in a cool dark store to await an audience. An audience of researchers perhaps, arriving one at a time to eagerly inspect a particular quality of that object, or maybe an audience of millions when the object finds itself on display in a large national museum. Whichever of those is true, the question remains: are those objects alive?

13th-century wooden Tibetan book cover depicting the Buddha Shakyamuni on the night of his enlightenment. Credit: Wikimedia / Walters Art Museum.

Continue reading at the Objects in Motion blog