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Bear baiting jug, Harris Museum, Preston

While museum collections preserve evidence of the past, it doesn’t mean that we have to agree with everything that’s gone before us.

Made in the late 1700s in Staffordshire, this earthenware jug in the Harris Museum shows a chained and harnessed bear which appears to have caught the dog that’s baiting it. How someone thought to design, make and sell this is rather complicated to our modern sensibilities.

Objects like this are uncomfortable to look at today. Yet give us an indication of where we’ve come on our journey – in terms of animal rights and also in taste and style. And this bear also reminds us that not everywhere in the world has come on that journey yet.

 So while he’s a pretty gaudy object, I think this little bear has quite the story to tell.

Earlier Event: February 25
Chairs of the world, V&A