This is a museum that invites visitors to come! Sit down! And stay.

The Dog Museum of the American Kennel Club opens February 8 in downtown Manhattan and returns to New York after three decades in the suburbs of St. Louis.

The collection features portraits of royal and presidential pets, artifacts tracing canine history as old as a 30-million-year-old fossil, and features that "match" in the face of visitors with dog breeds and allow people to try basics training with a virtual puppy.

The museum hopes to allow visitors to "understand the history of dogs and their diversity," said executive director Alan Fausel, a longtime art curator. reviewer seen on "Antiques Roadshow" from PBS.

Approximately 150 pieces from the Canine Club's extensive collection, mainly donations, are on display at the museum, which also has a library area to browse some of the club's 15,000 books.

Fans will find pictures and information on dogs, bulldogs in the borough, and Bedlington terriers. There are some who do not know, but the collection is centered on thoroughbreds.

The Kennel Club, which runs the oldest breed dog registry in the country, has taken over the years the passion of animal welfare activists who view dog breeding as a beauty pageant that delights the dogs. puppy mills. The club argues that the selection makes it possible to refine various traits, ranging from conviviality to a keen sense of the bomb, and hopes that the museum will help to move things forward.

"I think the best thing to remember is that dogs have different jobs," said Fausel. "It's learning why they were purposely bred for certain jobs, their activities, and their attributes."

The exhibition goes from the scientist – like the skeleton of a smooth nineteenth century fox terrier that played an important role in the evolution of the race – to the whimsical, through one of the images of the photographer William Wegman , representing Weimarans in very similar situations (in this case, canoeing). There is also a tiny Edwardian-style dog house for a Chihuahua and a wall of movie posters celebrating the canine stars of "Lassie" at "Beethoven".

Other pieces talk about the stature of dogs in real life. A painting depicting a fox terrier sadly resting his head on an empty chair depicts Caesar, a pet so cherished by the King of England, Edward VII, that the dog walked very prominently during the 1910 funeral procession. of the monarch.

The collection also includes White House dog paintings: US President George W. Bush's Scottish terriers, Barney and Miss Beazley, as well as one of President George H. W.'s characters. Bush, Millie's English Springer Spaniels.

"Dogs have enriched our civilization and have been woven into our hearts and families throughout the ages, and I am delighted to see them recognized" in the museum, wrote in a 1990 letter, Barbara Bush.

In 1982, the museum opened in the former headquarters of the Kennel Club in New York. In search of more space and in the hope of attracting more than 15,000 annual visitors a year, the museum was relocated in 1987 to a historic home owned by St. Louis County.

Another planned move, in a new development in a neighboring city, has not materialized. The increase in expected attendance has not increased either: the museum had fewer than 10,000 visitors last year, Fausel said.

County officials in St. Louis did not respond to a call Thursday, but Parks director Gary Bess said this week at the St. Louis post-expedition that the museum's former home would be rented for events and exhibitions.

An upscale office tower in Manhattan offered something unmatched in the new premises: visitors can no longer bring their own pet poop. And admission rates are higher: $ 15 for most adults in New York, versus $ 6 in St. Louis County.

But the canine club hopes that the new museum, located in a glass-level street just a few blocks from Grand Central Terminal, will increase attendance to 80,000 to 100,000 people this year.