Bellingham resident Errol Mauler and his pets Nuisance, Sam, and Fluff.

October 19, 2023
Photo Archivist Lets Pets into Whatcom Museum

Bellingham, WA — The Whatcom Museum is excited to announce the opening of a new photo exhibition, straight from the archives, of beloved Whatcom County pets (and their humans). The Pet Show opens Saturday, October 21, in Old City Hall and runs through April 14, 2024.

“This photo exhibition documents the affection we’ve had for our animal companions over the decades,” said Whatcom Museum photo archivist Jeff Jewell, who selected the images for display, which range from the late 1800s to 2015.

People have been capturing moments with beloved pets for nearly as long as there have been cameras; the oldest known pet photographs date back to the mid-1800s. But while today’s technology makes it easy to take photos and share them instantly with the world, doing so was more complicated in the 19th and 20th centuries. People needed technical expertise to use a camera, handle film, and process darkroom chemicals, so most hired a professional instead. The Pet Show features work by E.A. Hegg, Darius Kinsey, and J.W. Sandison, local commercial photographers of the time.

“Dogs are most common in the earliest portraits,” explained Jewell, “because they would sit or lie down. But cats wouldn’t stay still long enough for the slow exposure time of early cameras.” Even so, The Pet Show features the earliest successful cat portrait of a toddler and kitten from 1905 by J.W. Sandison.

The Whatcom Museum’s photo archive, located in the Syre Education Center on Prospect Street, has inherited hundreds of these personal and informal views of pets, and many appear in this exhibition. Visitors will also see images of a few exotic pets, likely the outcome of feeding local wildlife or raising an orphaned critter, as captured by legendary Bellingham Herald photographer Jack Carver.

The Pet Show
October 21, 2023 – April 14, 2024, Whatcom Museum | Old City Hall
121 Prospect Street
Bellingham, WA

About the Whatcom Museum The Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, WA, is an American Alliance of Museums-accredited museum and a Smithsonian Affiliate. Notable projects have included the 2019 retrospective exhibition Ed Bereal: WANTED: For Disturbing the Peace, featured in The New York Times, the touring exhibition Katazome Today: Migrations of a Japanese Art, and the co-curated exhibition Many Wests: Artists Shape an American Idea, which is now on view at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.

The Whatcom Museum spans three buildings in downtown Bellingham: the Lightcatcher, Old City Hall, and the Syre Education Center. For more information about our exhibitions and admission, visit

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MEDIA CONTACT: Adrienne Dawson Director, Marketing & PR Whatcom Museum