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Today Is #MuseumMascot Day!

by Allison Meier on December 6, 2013

Sue at the Field Museum in Chicago (photograph by Will Merydith)

Sue at the Field Museum in Chicago (photograph by Will Merydith)

Today is International Museum Mascot Day, and the animals, mummies, random curios, and other collection creatures that represent their respective museums are celebrating on Twitter with the #MuseumMascot hashtag.

There are actually quite a few museum mascots coming to life on Twitter, including a 2,300-year-old mummy at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum, the skull of John Bellingham at Barts Pathology Museum who assassinated a prime minister, an extinct Giant Irish Deer named Oisin at the Market Hall Museum in Warwick (dead animals do dominate the Twitter Museum Mascot reps), Dippy the Diplodocus at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, a plush lion cub, Waltee, at the Walters Art Museum, and the blue whale model at the American Museum of Natural History. Sure, it’s all sort of silly, but the mascots are often a great way to engage kids and have a lighter presence on social media than the usually institutional main museum handles.

Here’s a list of over 100 museum mascots on Twitter to get you started, and the Guardian has more coverage of Museum Mascot Day. Below are just five favorite museum mascots to check out in honor of the day:

Owney the Dog at the National Postal Museum

Owney the Postal Dog (via Smithsonian National Postal Museum)

Owney the Postal Dog (via Smithsonian National Postal Museum)

Owney the Postal Dog, a 19th century mutt who rode the rails with the mail carriers in the 19th century, has been proudly adopted as the mascot of the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum (and the US Postal Service). The terrier still sports his vest of mail tags, which he received while traveling all 48 contiguous states.

The Horniman Museum Walrus

The Horniman Museum walrus (photograph by Clare Griffiths)

The Horniman Museum walrus (photograph by Clare Griffiths)

The overstuffed taxidermied walrus at the Horniman Museum  — whose Twitter bio states that “Queen Victoria called me a fine specimen and she knew her onions” — has been a colossal showpiece in the London museum since it opened. The walrus looks unusually hefty as Victorian taxidermists didn’t quite understand that the animal was supposed to have wrinkles, so they stuffed it until its skin was smooth.

William at the Metropolitan Museum

"William" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (photograph by Richard Yuan)

“William” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (photograph by Richard Yuan)

Probably the most famous of museum mascots, or at least the best marketed, “William” is a small blue hippo statue from ancient Egypt. But don’t be fooled by the cuddly plush Williams available in the gift shop. According to the Met: “The seemingly benign appearance that this figurine presents is deceptive. To the ancient Egyptians, the hippopotamus was one of the most dangerous animals in their world.”

Chicago Art Institute Lions

Lions outside the Chicago Art Institute (photograph by stopthegears/Flickr user)

Lions outside the Chicago Art Institute (photograph by stopthegears/Flickr user)

The bronze lions outside the Art Institute of Chicago are the unofficial icons of the museum, standing out on Michigan Avenue, with their “names” referencing their poses by sculptor Edward Kemeys: “stands in an attitude of defiance” and “on the prowl.” However, that’s not terribly catchy, and is also a bit menacing for the younger museum set, so the museum also has “Artie,” a fuzzy lion that sometimes appears in costume with a face like a sugar cookie. The bronze lions also frequently dress up for the holidays and sporting events.

Sue at the Field Museum

Sue at the Field Museum (photograph by the author)

Sue at the Field Museum (photograph by the author)

Sue, a.k.a. Specimen FMNH PR 2081, is the best preserved T-Rex ever discovered and dominates the grand entrance hall of the Field Museum in Chicago. She is celebrated accordingly, even getting her own landing page on the website, and as far as unofficial dinosaur museum mascots go is definitely the most iconic (sorry, Dippy), once having her whole skeletal form silhouetted on the front of the museum.

International Museum Mascot Day takes place on December 6. Follow #MuseumMascot on Twitter and discover more of these colorful collection reps. 

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