July 01, 2013


 A showcase for veterinarians

Smithsonian exhibition celebrates human-animal bond, marks 150th anniversary of AVMA 

Posted June 19, 2013  

A rendering of “Animal Connections: Our Journey Together”
(Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service​)

A Smithsonian exhibition celebrating the human-animal bond, “Animal Connections: Our Journey Together,” will premier at the AVMA Annual Convention in late July.

The AVMA collaborated with the Smithsonian Institution on the exhibition to showcase the work of veterinarians and to mark the 150th anniversary of the AVMA. Zoetis is the founding funding partner for the interactive experience.

The exhibition has been years in the making. The sections revolve around animals in four settings: the home, the farm, the zoo, and the wild. The centerpiece is a virtual veterinary clinic with computer touch tables that allow visitors to try out diagnostic skills. 


“Members have asked for some time for a national outreach to the public on the value of veterinary medicine,” said J.B. Hancock, director of the AVMA Communications Division.  

“This is part of that effort and an excellent way to spread the word about the 150th anniversary of an important national resource: the AVMA.”  

Hancock and other AVMA representatives have been working with the Smithsonian on the exhibition, honing messages that highlight the roles of veterinarians in society. The Smithsonian assembled a group of veterinarians as consultants to flesh out the messages. 

The exhibition fits in a semitrailer that opens up to provide about 1,000 square feet of display space. The truck will drive inside Chicago’s McCormick Place to debut July 20-22 during the AVMA Annual Convention. The exhibition’s public launch will follow July 23 at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium. 

The exhibition

The focus of the exhibition is the human-animal bond, with veterinary medicine as the secondary subject. 

Jennifer Bine, project director with the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, said, ”People have a great deal of trust in veterinarians and are interested in the many facets of veterinary medicine. Much of that interest is based on the deep human-animal bond Americans have with animals. This exhibition uses this as the audience’s point of entry.”
Bine said the exhibition begins with displays about the domestication of dogs and the breeding of other animals. From there, visitors can go to four sections to the sides or to the virtual veterinary clinic in the center. Each of the four sections offers a variety of displays, videos, and interactive modules.
In the section about animals in the home, one interactive module offers recommendations for suitable pets on the basis of visitors’ preferences and home environment. A video describes the relationships between humans and companion animals, while another video explains safe ways to approach a range of animals, from pets to working animals.

These images are among the many that appear in the Smithsonian exhibition. The sections revolve around animals in four settings—the home, the farm, the zoo, and the wild—while the centerpiece is a virtual veterinary clinic.
(Clockwise from top left: photo by Kristian Sekulic/iStock; photo by Sara Winter/iStock; photo by David Phillips/iStock; courtesy of Dr. Kevin Brumfield, Northwood Animal Hospital; courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Zoological Park)
The section about animals on the farm includes a display depicting a veterinarian’s truck, with compartments containing veterinary instruments. A video covers the complexity of caring for dairy cattle.
The section about zoo animals explores subjects such as the bond between keepers and animals, veterinarians’ rounds, and objects for animal training and enrichment.
In the wildlife section, the emphasis is on what visitors might encounter outside their back door. One topic is keeping humans, pets, and wildlife safe during such encounters. A mural shows animal tracks and other signs of wildlife presence. Videos show wildlife in urban areas, such as a pair of young moose playing in a sprinkler.
The virtual veterinary clinic at the center of the exhibition introduces visitors to veterinary diagnostics. The virtual patients are a dog, piglets, and a cheetah. For each patient, the computer touch tables list signs of illness and what the signs might mean. Visitors can examine the animals via the touch screens. Then visitors work through a decision tree to treat the patients.
A final video features veterinarians talking about what drew them into the field, what they do in their jobs, and why the work is rewarding.
Bine said a takeaway message from the exhibition is “that we rely on animals in a whole host of ways, and that reliance conveys a level of responsibility to us in their care.” 

Supporting the profession

Dr. Christine C. Jenkins, Zoetis group director for veterinary medical services in the United States, said her company is proud to sponsor the exhibition.
“It gives us the opportunity with the Smithsonian Institution as well as the AVMA to help elevate the awareness of the importance of the veterinary profession and what veterinarians provide to our society—and to bring it down to a level that’s relevant to people in their day-to-day lives,” Dr. Jenkins said.
To Dr. Jenkins, the most exciting part of the exhibition is the opportunity for visitors to try out their veterinary diagnostic skills. For kids, she said, the activity could stimulate an interest in science.
Dr. Jenkins said this is a key year for Zoetis, too. Formerly Pfizer Animal Health, it became a stand-alone company in February. She said sponsoring the exhibition is part of the company’s Commitment to Veterinarians platform, supporting the future of the veterinary profession.