Just around the corner from Green Park, there is an clear elegant building with two green flags and a large metal logo relief on the wall next to the entrance. It hosts The Kennel Club’s headquarters, the UK’s largest organisation dedicated to dogs’ welfare and its Library and an Art Gallery, which can be visited by the public, as well as an exclusive Members’ Club. We were shown around the Library and Art Gallery by their German Shepherd office dog Buddy (who recently featured in the Office Dog Series) and today we tell you all you need to know to plan your (dog-friendly) visit to discover their collections.
Visiting The Kennel Club’s Library and Art Gallery collections
The Kennel Club was founded in 1873 with a mission to “promote in every way the general improvement of dogs”. Ciara Farrell, Library and Collections Manager, adds, “The Kennel Club was originally founded to govern two new popular activities for dogs and dog owners – Dog Shows and Field Trials. In order to keep accurate records of the dogs involved in these activities, the Kennel Club then stated keeping registration lists for pure bred and sporting dogs, so we have birth records for dogs and results of competitions going all the way back to even earlier than the foundation of the Kennel Club. Nowadays, as well as registrations, dog shows and sporting activities for dogs, the Kennel Club is involved in health and welfare for dogs, responsible breeding, responsible dog ownership, promoting involvement with dogs to young people and in promoting education, training and charitable activities.”
It does not come as a surprise to find sculptures and paintings of dogs of various breeds, adorning the reception area, as you enter the doors of The Kennel Club, and encounter paintings portraying man’s best friend everywhere around the building. The large marble counter carries an engraving of the Kennel Club’s logo, and the Kennel Club’s offices, meeting rooms, Club, Library and Art Gallery are all marked by signs of dogs celebration.
You will be pleased to know that, apart their office dogs, The Kennel Club also welcomes guest dogs, although you need to let them know in advance that you will be visiting with your canine partner. Rules are simple. “Like all dogs visiting public places, they must be well-behaved and closely looked after by their owner at all times,” adds Ciara.
Exploring the The Kennel Club’s Art Gallery collection
The Kennel Club’s Art Gallery includes a wide collection of paintings, sculptures, photographs and relics. “Our Art Collection has over 500 pieces,” explains Ciara. “We have a selection on display in our gallery and people can come to see those any time. To see the whole collection, though, you need to book onto one of our guided tours as they are all over our building, including in areas not usually open to the public, such as offices and boardrooms. Our collection has come to use by various means – lots have been generously donated or left to us in people’s wills, but we do buy things as well.”
One of the big hits of the collection among visitors is the Crufts Best in Show trophy, which is on display in the gallery. “We also hold two or three special exhibitions a year, where we borrow things from other collections – other galleries or from private collections – so it’s often the only chance the public have to see these all in one place. We have an annual photographic exhibition for the winners of Dog Photographer of the Year as well,” says Ciara.
The Kennel Club’s Library is the largest wolrd canine books collection
If you are one of those people who, when visiting a bookstore, always end up in the animal section, but are somehow left unsatisfied from the limited book range, you will likely find your thing at The Kennel Club’s Library, when browsing through their shelves, running your fingers on the spines of the orderly aligned – old and new – books about anything dog.
“Our collections are all about dogs and we hold books, newspapers and journals as well as specialist reference material such as Stud Books, Breed Records, Crufts Catalogues and other dog show catalogues, Breed Club publications, rare canine books and ephemera, special collections and more,” says Ciara. “Typical research request include breed research, pedigree research, Breed Club history, History of Crufts and other dog shows. We often get asked about specific champion dogs and for information about dog training, caring for new puppies and choosing the right dog for you. We can answer some questions very quickly but some topics take a lot longer and we sometimes work with researchers for year, especially if they are writing a book or working on PhD.”
During my visit to the Library, on the same floor of the Art Gallery, I spot not just breed books – which of course is one of the core topics of their collection – but also some photography ones, like Dogs by Tim Flach, dog cartoons hanging on the walls, and more. They have books about dogs in art and in literature too.
Asked about her favourite piece from the collection, Ciara says, “My personal favourite is an English Civil War propaganda pamphlet from 1642, all about a dog – a Poodle called Boy – who belonged to Prince Rupert, who was the nephew of King Charles I and a general in the Royalist forces during the Civil War. It accuses this dog Boy of being a witch who can go invisible, speak various languages, is weapon proof and so on. Printing had become very affordable then and these sorts of pamphlets were useful tools for getting political messages out there. I think this one might be fake news, though.”
The Library’s collection is strictly reference only and nothing can be borrowed – “A lot of our material is absolutely irreplaceable,” explains Ciara -, but, if you can’t visit in person, the Library’s staff is available to discuss the research topic and can help with it by email. If you decide to visit, you will find it is a quiet place where to spend a few hours reading.
The opening times of the Library are great for a lunch-break if you work in Mayfair, while can be trickier if you have a full-time job elsewhere, as they run from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm, Monday to Friday, by appointment.
Guided tours of The Kennel Club’s Art Gallery and Library
While you can make use of their regular opening hours (by appointment), if you want to make the most of your visit, you can participate to a guided tour that The Kennel Club will be offering of its art gallery and library. The first tour of the year was held in January and more will follow, with the next one taking place on 20th March 2019 (more information and further dates will be released here). The cost of the tour is £5 per person and prior booking essential (you can reserve your place over the phone at 020 7518 1064, or via email at email@example.com). Refreshments will be served upon arrival and for a small charge, and guests can prolong their visit with a lunch prepared by the catering team.
“Highlights of the tour include the unique opportunity to see the world-famous Cruft’s Best in Show trophy, the Keddell Memorial Trophy, up close; and a rare chance to view Sir Edwin Landseer’s ‘A Distinguished Member of the Humane Society’, currently on loan from the Tate. Guests will also have time to explore the art gallery’s current exhibition, held in partnership with the Mary Evans Picture Library, ‘Promoting the Pedigree through Photography: Thomas Fall’, which charts the visual progression of British pedigree dogs through rare photographic records,” according to the staff.
Finally, the Kennel Club also hosts talks. The next on the agenda, due to take place on 19th February 2019, will be about Queen Alexandra, with the world’s expert on Queen Alexandra and former Curator of the Royal Photograph Collection at Windsor Castle, Frances Dimond. She was known for her love for dogs and The Kennel Club Art Gallery have two items on loan from the Royal Collection Trust featuring Queen Alexandra and her famous dogs photographed by Thomas Fall in the late 1890s (you can find more information about the talk here).
Planning your visit
Where: The Kennel Club, 10 Clarges St, Mayfair, London W1J 8AB
Nearest station: Green Park underground station
Opening hours: Monday to Friday 9:30 am to 4:30 pm by appointment; contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
STAY IN THE LOOP