By Breana Pitts
TAUTON, Massachusetts (WBZ) — Just south of Boston you can visit a museum that’s almost 170 years old and has more than 13,000 items in their collection. But the star attraction at the Old Colony History Museum in Taunton is their dog, Jean Luc Barkard.
The museum’s executive director, Katie MacDonald, adopted the seven-year-old rescue dog from Alabama and started bringing him to work after a conversation with management about employee perks.
“We were talking about perks at the annual review, and I was like, ‘Oh it would be cool to have a dog here.’ My husband was like you can’t take a dog to work and I was like, well they said I could take a dog to work.”
MacDonald says Jean Luc has become a fixture at the office ever since.
“Some people call him the mascot. You come in the office you say hi to Jean Luc, that’s what you do when you come in. Board members know him.”
MacDonald’s office looks different from most other museum directors. Jean Luc’s dog bed, toys, and food and water bowls are scattered around, but co-workers don’t seem to mind one bit.
“It changes the day a little bit. You have somebody to give a little love to and get a little love from and it’s a nice workday when you can hang out with him,” said community programming coordinator Saria Sweeney.
“Oh, he is the most wonderful addition. One of my favorite things is when you’ll go into the office, he’s seated in the chair just outside the doorway and he sits up so cute, like ‘I’m a person,’” Elizabeth Bernier, assistant to the director, told WBZ.
“I think he’s a good example of that change that we’ve been working on. Museums can have a reputation for being a little stuffy,” MacDonald explained.
MacDonald is working hard to change that perception, with the museum hosting paint nights, “Beer with Bronson” the museum curator, even a Zoom cooking class using historical recipes from the collection.
“We’ll try a lot of different ways to engage people with local history. We’ll try most things I’d say,” said MacDonald.
In the gift shop visitors can purchase a Jean Luc souvenir puzzle, and the pup has even inspired some of the museum’s programming, like a scavenger hunt entirely from Jean Luc’s perspective.
“Some people come in and they’re like do I need to whisper? And we’re like no, come on in, check things out, touch the buttons on the river display. We have a kid’s corner downstairs where you can draw, and we have other interactives, so he sort of embodies that,” MacDonald said.
Jean Luc has developed quite the fan base and even has his own Instagram.
One museum volunteer knitted him a blanket, another crocheted him as a small stuffed animal. Once visitor even made a Jean Luc-themed clock.
MacDonald says while Jean Luc doesn’t have any official duties or responsibilities at the museum, he does appear on the staff bio page, and he is pretty good at making everyone feel welcome.
“We do serious history, we do have a lot of interesting things to share, but if you’ve never been here, I think he’s a great entry point. Once you’re here we’re pretty confident you’ll find something that’s interesting or new or that you didn’t know. That’s really our goal to teach people about the local history and hopefully inspire them to love their community more. I think if you come here, you’re going to be pleasantly surprised. We’re willing to take that bet.”
The Old Colony History Museum is open Tuesday through Saturdays. Walk-ins are welcome.
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