The Vernacular Bestiary


The Premier Exhibition of “The Vernacular Bestiary,”

a “Call for Poetry”, 

 and an “Afternoon of Animal Verse” 

with Ventura County’s Poet Laureate Mary Kay Rummel


       From March 1 through June 15, 2014, the Museum of Ventura County’s Agriculture Museum in Santa Paula, CA, will present the first exhibition of “The Vernacular Bestiary: Animal Snapshots from A to Z.” This collection of anonymous amateur photographs has been collected by photographer and gallerist John Nichols over the past two decades and has never been publicly exhibited. The abecedarian display of creatures is comprised of photographs taken over the past 120 years. An adjacent kids’ reading and exhibit area will encourage children and their families to read and write poems, as well as draw and display their own responses to the animal-themed exhibition. Animal poems by published poets will also be shared, in binders that can be carried around the exhibition area.  

There will be a number of events to accompany the exhibition. On Thursday, March 13 at 2:00 p.m., John Nichols will give a Gallery Talk entitled, “What’s Special About Vernacular Photography?” 

A free opening reception for “The Vernacular Bestiary” will be held on Saturday, March 22, from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. Called  “Beans and Beasts,” this reception also honors a second new exhibition opening at the Museum of Ventura County’s Agriculture Museum: “Growing Up, Growing Beans: Remembering Ventura County Limas.”  At 3:15, Ralph W. “Bill” Borchard Jr., Seed Production Manager, PanAmerican Seed, shares “Lima Bean Lessons,” wisdom he acquired on his family’s Oxnard Plains ranch.  At 4:00, photographer John Nichols talks about collecting The Vernacular Bestiary.  

Vernacular Bestiary

Call for Poetry: Writers are invited to preview selections from    The Vernacular Bestiary online immediately at  or see the original snapshots at the Agriculture Museum, beginning on March 1.  They may submit up to three original poems of up to 25 lines each inspired by any of the snapshots. Submission implies that the poems can be used by the Agriculture Museum non-commercially to publicize the exhibit (credit will be given) and copyright reverts back to author. Poems must be submitted to by March 29. A panel of judges will select poems to be shared at the “An Afternoon of Animal Verse” to take place in April. Poets will be contacted and asked to read their selected poems at the event; poet Jackson Wheeler will read the poems of any who cannot attend. 

“An Afternoon of Animal Verse” will be held at the Agriculture Museum on Sunday, April 13, at 3:00 p.m. Ventura County’s Poet Laureate, Mary Kay Rummel, will read a new poem responding to one of the exhibition photos to start off the reading. After the other new poems are read by their writers and by Jackson Wheeler, all attendees are invited to read a favorite animal poem written by someone else. 

The Museum of Ventura County Agriculture Museum is located at 926 Railroad Avenue, Santa Paula, CA 93060. (805) 525-3100.   Information about the museum can be found at:     Museum hours: Tuesday – Sunday, 10 – 4.    For more information about the exhibition and the call for poetry, contact John Nichols at or at (805) 525-7804. 

Since 1984. By Appointment and by Chance
Gallery located on the 2nd floor of the Santa Paula Art Museum at 117 North 10th Street, Santa Paula, California.