Art of the Dog Collar exhibit opens at Pebble Hill Plantation

Nov. 3—THOMASVILLE- Pebble Hill Plantation held a preview party for the "Identity & Restraint: Art of the Dog Collar exhibit" on Thursday night. The special party featured Claudia Pfeiffer, the Curator from the National Sporting Library & Museum in Middleburg, Virginia, along with the original dog collar collector Dr. Timothy J. Greenan.

Pebble Hill Plantation Executive Director Whitney White welcomed the crowd, sharing the history behind Pebble Hill.

"Miss "Pansy" Elisabeth Ireland Poe was the last owner of Pebble Hill," White explained. "When she died, she left Pebble Hill to be open to the public."

This year is the 40th anniversary of Poe leaving the plantation to be open to the public.

"This is one of many activities that we will celebrate throughout the year," White said.

In attendance was one of Miss "Pansy's" nieces, Elisabeth Ireland Stahl, who was thrilled to see so many individuals turn out for the opening of the exhibition.

"This has been something that we've been working on for a long time," she said. "I have to thank my husband, Bill, who said there would be this great exhibition that would look so fabulous at Pebble Hill."

Stahl said during her sneak peek at the collection, she got choked up knowing how much her aunt would've loved it.

To introduce the collection, Stahl welcomed the Executive Director of the National Sporting Library & Museum, Elizabeth von Hassell.

Von Hassell explained that while working at the National Sporting Library & Museum, she was told she would soon house the largest dog collar collection in the world.

Originally unsure of what to expect, von Hassell said the collection was unbelievable and allowed them to partner with the American Kennel Club's Museum of the Dog.

"There are century-old collars that are massive, beautiful collars," she said. "It's just been a phenomenal experience."

She said none of this would be possible without the donation of Greenan, whom she then invited to speak on his collection.

"This collection for me represents the beginning and end of a collecting career," Greenan said. "I don't collect anything anymore. I used to be a crazy collector."

Collecting dog collars garnered some interesting reactions, according to Greenan. However, once he showed those interested in his collection, their reactions would often change.

"Today, dog collars are ephemeral and we throw them away," Greenan explained. "Prior to the 19th century, most dog collars were made of metal, brass, sterling silver, nickel or leather; there was a permanency to the collar."

Dog collars were not mass-produced until the end of the Industrial Revolution when pet shops began to pop up.

"Suddenly, dog collars became the first dog accessory," Greenan said. "The quality didn't dip until after WWII."

Greenan's first dog collar purchase for his collection came after he received a Main Antique booklet, showcasing their offerings. He saw a metal alloy dog collar, emblazoned with the owner's name.

"I remember noticing the permanency of the heavy, metal collar," he said. "It was very personal and that sort of ignited this whole collection. That collar represented the identity of the dog and every subsequent collar was the testament to the identity of some dog."

Greenan explained that very few collars had the dog's name on them, but years later, people could glean so much from collars about who the dog was and what their task was, regardless.

"It brings about the concept of identity and the relationship of the dog," he said.

Following his collection, Greenan explored the concept of an exhibit after his children would try to match historic artwork of dogs with the collars their father collected.

"It was sort of like a Where's Waldo," Greenan joked. "But, art for thousands of years has told the story of the dog collar."

With that, Greenan then invited the public upstairs to enjoy the artwork and stories of the dog collar.

The exhibit will be on display at Pebble Hill through May 2024.