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New pop-up exhibition about pet ownership opens

A team of historians from Royal Holloway and Manchester Universities are working on the first large-scale research project on the history of pets in British family life.

The results will be on show in a pop-up exhibition Pets in the Archives, in the foyer of Hampshire Record Office from January 9 to April 3.

They are investigating how pets were bought and sold, how they were cared for, and why they came to play such a key role in British family life.

Pet shops as we know them first emerged in the late nineteenth century, and gradually became an established part of the British high street.

There were also big changes in the kind of pets that people kept – squirrels, hedgehogs and British birds were Victorian favourites. Dogs were always popular, though, and as today, there were changing fashions for breeds.

The researchers are using local archives and record offices in Hampshire, Surrey, and the London Borough of Wandsworth. Delving into diaries, photographs, and personal papers they’ve been finding out how and why some local residents acquired, cared for, played with, and loved their animal companions in the past.

On March 28 at 13.15 Dr Jane Hamlett from Royal Holloway University will be giving a talk Cats, Dogs and Other Pets in Victorian and Edwardian Hampshire.

The exhibition will then be installed in Surrey History Centre from 4 – 28 April and Wandsworth Heritage Service Libraries, as part of the Wandsworth Heritage Festival, between 26 May – 8 June.

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