Stella, one of Penn's famous High-Rise dogs.

Credit: Megan Kyne

The Penn Museum is celebrating the upcoming Chinese New Year and start of the Year of the Dog by hosting a dog photo contest on Instagram.

The contest, part of the Penn Museum’s 37th annual Chinese New Year Celebration, requires each Instagram entry to include the dog's name and a New Year's resolution for the pet in the caption.  

Penn Museum Social Media Manager Tom Stanley said this marks the first time that the Museum has integrated a social media contest with the annual Chinese New Year event.

“The Year of the Dog came around, and we knew that people love dogs,” Stanley said. "Certain years on the zodiac calendar are a little less photogenic than others, like the Year of the Rat for example."

Albert Lee, a local Instagram personality known for portraits of everyday Philadelphians and landscape shots of the city, will narrow the entries down to nine finalists. Attendees of the Museum’s Chinese New Year festivities on Jan. 27 vote on the finalists' photos.

The winner of the contest, determined by whose photo gets the most votes in the final round, will receive a one-year membership to the Penn Museum. Second and third place winners will earn gift certificates, while all finalists get a "goodie bag for their dog," according to the contest rules.  

So far there are over 60 entries to the contest, which began on Jan. 6 and ends on Jan. 22.  

For the museum staff, the increased attention that the contest brings to the Chinese New Year Celebration is heartening because of how important they believe the new year festival to be.

Credit: Ritika Philip

Tena Thompson, the assistant director for public programs at the Penn Museum, said the event helps illuminate a culture many living in Philadelphia never get to see.

She said the annual celebration for Chinese New Year is part of the Museum's World Culture Days, a series of programming that celebrates various cultures from around the world throughout each year, such as the Day of the Dead.  

“Many cultures share things, but it’s important that we see cultural similarities and explore differences to understand this different part of the world,” Thompson added.

The celebration at the museum will include many activities, such as an illustrated lecture from Penn Museum Curator of Asian Art Nancy Steinhardt about dogs in Chinese art. Thompson said the celebration will end with a traditional Chinese lion dance parade. 

Chinese New Year celebrates the turn of the lunar calendar. Each year is dedicated to one of twelve zodiac animals. The upcoming year, which traditionally begins in February, honors the dog zodiac. The Penn Museum event press release says that according Chinese mythology, people born under the Year of the Dog are "loyal and honest."  

While the competition comes with a prize for the winners and finalists, some entrants simply want to showcase their dogs. College sophomore Stephanie Lee said she learned of the contest through Facebook and thought it would be cool to enter her “faithful and loyal” 8-year-old Maltese, Jamie, into the competition.

“I don’t think the reward matters that much to me," she said.  "I just think it’d be fun to enter and see his photo featured at the Museum."

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