Exhibition connects across country

“Animal Connections” features veterinary medicine, human-animal bond
Published on
information-circle This article is more than 3 years old

Thousands of people have visited a free traveling exhibition that showcases veterinary medicine in a celebration of the human-animal bond.

Dr. Karl A. Reichardt, volunteering as a guide for “Animal Connections,” points out a detail on one of many radiographs of animals that had swallowed various objects. Dr. Reichardt said some kids were better at identifying the objects than their parents were. (Photos by James Kegley Photography)

“Animal Connections: Our Journey Together” debuted in July 2013 at the AVMA Annual Convention in Chicago and has been touring the country ever since.

The Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service created “Animal Connections” to mark the 150th anniversary of the AVMA last year. The exhibition is made possible through the support of founding sponsor Zoetis Inc. and the American Veterinary Medical Foundation.

On the road

Michael Cathey, AVMF executive director, said, “Our mission is all about the medical care and well-being of animals, and so of course that encompasses our connection to animals. This was a way for the AVMF to take awareness of that mission and our activities to the public.”

The AVMA as well as the AVMF have contributed financial support for the 2014 tour of “Animal Connections.” The AVMF also has been recruiting volunteers from the veterinary community to serve as guides to the exhibition.

By the end of 2013, nearly 15,000 people had visited the exhibition at 15 locations in Chicago, New York City, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C. The exhibition made stops in January and February 2014 in Atlanta and Dallas and at Texas A&M University and Louisiana State University. The March stops were at the annual meeting of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians in Dallas; the yearly conference of the American Animal Hospital Association in Nashville, Tenn.; and North Carolina State University.

Organizers have been rolling out the 2014 itinerary as details become final. In July, the exhibition will travel to Denver for the AVMA Annual Convention.

Volunteer veterinarian

Dr. Karl A. Reichardt volunteered as a guide to “Animal Connections” in October 2013 when the exhibition parked on the National Mall in Washington. He is the semiretired former owner of an animal hospital located in Edgewater, Md.

Dr. Reichardt thought the exhibition was “fantastic.”

He said it was intriguing to visitors of varying interest levels and showed all aspects of the profession.

“I’ve always enjoyed the reputation veterinary medicine has with just about anybody that comes into contact with us,” he said. But it made him feel especially good to see kids and their parents light up while exploring the exhibition.

Dr. Reichardt said the biggest attraction seemed to be the touch tables that allow visitors to diagnose and treat illnesses in virtual animals. He thinks the module provides insight into what goes on behind the scenes at a veterinary clinic.

Inside the truck

Andrea Stevens, director of strategic communications for the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, said developers are pleased with the reception given to “Animal Connections.”

The exhibition resides inside an 18-wheeler that opens up to provide 1,000 square feet of display space. The sections cover animals in the home, on the farm, at the zoo, in the wild, and at the veterinary clinic.

A visitor to the exhibition looks at a display about the work of veterinarians in clinics, on farms, and at zoos.

Stevens has visited the exhibition at several stops. She was excited to see how families interacted with the exhibition as well as how veterinarians appreciated the portrayal of the profession. Her grandson was not even 5 when he visited, and he watched every single video.

Visitors spend from 20 minutes to two hours with the exhibition. Stevens said one of the highlights is a module that recommends a pet to fit a visitor’s lifestyle, with results ranging from a horse to a goldfish to a houseplant.

Stevens said having veterinarians as guides to the exhibition adds a lot to the experience.

“They can explain a little more about what they do and what their specialties are. Sometimes we’ve heard them tell stories about interesting patients,” she said. “There’s a wall of X-rays of things that animals have swallowed, which makes for really good conversations.”

Reaching out

Zoetis is the primary sponsor of the 2014 tour of “Animal Connections.”

Dr. Christine C. Jenkins, Zoetis group director for veterinary medical services in the United States, also has visited the exhibition at several stops. At each stop, she likes to see kids excited about veterinary medicine, and she’s happy to hear veterinarians learn something new.

“The quality and the level of interaction and engagement that the Smithsonian was able to bring to life impresses all audiences,” Dr. Jenkins said. “In particular, veterinarians and veterinary technicians themselves are very pleased with the way we’re trying to educate the public through this exhibit.”

Zoetis also is supporting the exhibition as a way to inspire the next generation of veterinarians.

This information about “Animal Connections,” includes a list of upcoming stops.

Volunteers from the veterinary community who would like to serve as guides if the exhibition comes to their area should contact Laura Roth at 800-248-2862, ext. 6689, or lrothatavma [dot] org (lroth[at]avma[dot]org).

Related JAVMA content:

Smithsonian exhibition shows veterinarians’ roles (Sept. 1, 2013)

A showcase for veterinarians (July 1, 2013)