Long before pets found themselves the subject of their owner’s selfies, people were snapping film photos, daguerreotypes and tintypes of their favorite critters. Today, many such mementoes will be on display at the Old Depot Museum.

According to a release from the museum, located at 135 W. Tecumseh St., Ottawa, its latest exhibit will explore Franklin County’s relationship with animals. “Critter Companions,” a look at working animals and companion pets, opens today.

“Before the 19th Century, most animals found in average households were working animals,” the release said. “Cats chased mice, dogs scented game, and horses provided transportation. During the mid-1800s, companion animals, which had once been common only among more affluent households, began to find their way into the hearts and homes of average citizens.”

As members of the family, pets also found their way into photographs.

“We have an amazing collection of photos of pets dating back more than 150 years,” said Diana Staresinic-Deane, executive director of the Franklin County Historical Society. “There are candid shots of people playing with their pets and formal portraits with cats and dogs posed in a way that suggests they are as much a part of the family as mom, dad, and the kids.”

According to the release, some owners even arranged for individual studio portraits of their pets. Among the more than 50 photos on display is a 19th Century tintype of a puppy posed on a table. An early 20th Century photo shows “Toodles” the cocker spaniel and two of her puppies.

A collection of early 20th Century postcards, Valentine’s Day cards, and trade cards demonstrate how images of animals are used to express love, trust, and friendship.

“Franklin County’s pet story would not be complete without the history of the animal shelter,” the release said. “The exhibit looks at Bea Martin Peck’s work to establish the Franklin County Humane Society and the county’s first animal shelter. The Franklin County Historical Society is partnering with Prairie Paws Animal Shelter to showcase animals ready for adoption and will host an adoption event later this year.”

During opening weekend (March 17-18), admission for all children 12 and under accompanied by an adult will be free, and there will be a coloring table and scavenger hunts available.

The museum will also host a story time in collaboration with Ottawa Library. The date will be announced later this spring. “Critter Companions” is slated to run through Aug. 19, 2018.

For more information, contact the Old Depot Museum at (785) 242-1250 or manager@olddepotmuseum.org