Welcome to “Be Kind: A Visual History of Humane Education, 1880-1945.”

This exhibition explores the history of humane education from the late 19th century to the Second World War.  This was a very visual, performative, and literary movement, relying heavily on art, public displays, music, lantern slides, and illustrated books to convey the message of “kindness to animals.”

The Golden Rule: Be Kind to Animals (published by the AHS, collection of the MSPCA)

The goal of this exhibition is to illustrate the dynamism and multi-faceted approach that pioneers in humane education took. In addition to highlighting this often-overlooked history, this exhibit aims to bring the message of humane education to current audiences by connecting them with the historical trajectory of animal protection. It is our hope that the work of these early reformers will capture the imagination of a new generation.

As you explore this online exhibition, you can use the navigation menu on the right side of the screen to guide you. “Home” will bring you back to this page, “About Humane Education,” will provide you with some background information, and “The Exhibition,” will take you on a tour of the early humane education movement. “For Teachers & Parents” includes curriculum and lesson planning ideas, and the “Timeline” gives a brief overview of some of the key moments in early Humane Education. And, finally, “Resources,” gives a list of websites, books, and articles that provide further information on the early Humane Education movement.

As you move through the exhibition, you can follow the links at the bottom of each page to move from section to section.The navigation bar (just under the banner at the top of the page) will show you where you are in the exhibit layout.  To take a closer look at an image, click on it and it will open in another window. Use your browser’s back button to return to original page.

We invite you to read about the early Humane Education movement, to explore the images and visual culture that were so crucial to this movement, to take a moment and listen to some 19th century Band of Mercy songs and, to learn about the courageous men and women who so firmly believed in the power of Humane Education to make a difference for all species.

You are welcome to leave your comments about items in the exhibit. You can do so by clicking on the “leave a comment” link at the top of this page. Did you enjoy the exhibition? Did you learn something? Does some of this material look familiar to you? Perhaps someone in your family was the recipient of a medal in a Humane Education poster contest, or maybe you have a one of the annual calendars produced by the American Humane Education Society. We would love to hear from you!

Be Kind: A Visual History of Humane Education, 1880-1945 is presented by the National Museum of Animals & Society. It was curated by Dr. Keri Cronin, Chair of the Department of Visual Arts at Brock University. Dr. Hilda Kean contributed text on the early Humane Education movement in Britain.

The exhibition features items from the National Museum of Animals & Society’s collection. In addition, objects and archival sources from individual and public collections in Canada, The United States, and Britain are used in this exhibition. We are particularly grateful for the partnership with the MSPCA Angell and the Latham Foundation.