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Patrick Roberts

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Museum Cats 4

Virtual Museum . . . Real Cats!

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Here's a museum with a difference, as it has no premises: the Allan Janus Museum is a virtual one (existing only as a website and blog) devoted to the work of the fairly obscure Maryland photographer and collector of paintings and photographs, Allan Janus, born around 1881. The webmaster works for a real museum, the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, where he's an archivist; he maintains the site as 'a relief from the big-museum world', and signs himself as 'Allan Janus'.

However, the 'museum' cats Max and Maxine are real enough. The pair were adopted from a local animal shelter in Washington Grove, Maryland, in about 2002. It's uncertain whether they're actually brother and sister, but since they were tiny kittens they have been inseparable. They could well have Norwegian Forest blood, but it's Maxine that has the feisty and fearless nature, while Max is 'more of a dreamer'. Although it's well known among cat people that cats have three names (at least, it is if you've read T.S. Eliot), these are the first we've met with aliases! Apparently when their owner took them on, the shelter decreed that they were to be 'perpetual indoor cats' — but as he lives in an ideal place for cats, when they were settled in and a bit older he started to let them out.

Unfortunately the shelter found out and threatened to remove the felines, so for reporting purposes they adopted the outdoor personae of Leroy and Natasha. There's a Flickr gallery of delightful photos of them and their local friends, some video 'shorts', and a blog for the cats of the neighbourhood. We've downloaded the photos of Max and Maxine from the gallery, with their owner's permission.

Max - Allan Janus museum Maxine with a cicada Max and Maxine - Allan Janus museum Maxine relaxing Max with the monkey-god Hanuman

In 2010 we heard that Max and Maxine were still active and valued staff at the Janus Museum. An innovation is that a few years ago, Max took up photography! He's seen wearing a camera similar to that used by Cooper, and some fine examples of his work can be seen here and here. Maxine now has a friend Nutmeg, who hangs around quite often and is thought of as a museum volunteer — a sort of docent.

'Allan Janus' has also written a book entitled Animals Aloft, with photos and details of animals that went aloft in the early days of flying machines. Although many are dogs and other animals, there are a few cats, one of which was Kiddo.

Many thanks to Allan Janus for information about his museum and feline friends.

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Our featured feline at the head of the page is Socks, pictured in 2003 surveying his 'estate' in the early morning sunshine. Affectionately known as Soxy, he blossomed from a thin and hungry stray into a substantial and handsome cat who loved life and company, and his gentle ways endeared him to many friends. He is now no longer with us, but you can read more from his human companion here.

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