More than one hundred years ago, Harry Colebourn, a soldier and veterinarian, adopted a brown bear cub and named her Winnie, after his hometown of Winnipeg. The story of Winnie, who became the mascot for Colebourn’s regiment before sparking A.A. Milne’s beloved Winnie-the-Pooh stories, is the subject of the Ryerson exhibition Remembering the Real Winnie: The World’s Most Famous Bear Turns 100, which is now travelling from Ryerson University to the Assiniboine Park Conservancy in Winnipeg, on loan from November 7, 2016 to October 31, 2017.
“When Winnie left Canada in 1914, she made world history inspiring classic literature,” says Mohamed Lachemi, president and vice-chancellor of Ryerson University. “This unique exhibition, now travelling to Winnipeg on loan, is an opportunity to take the story home thanks to the research, digital archiving, and creative storytelling at Ryerson University.”
“We are honoured to share untold parts of this story with Winnipeggers and visitors alike through this historical exhibition,” says Trevor Clearwater, Director of Visitor Services at Assiniboine Park Conservancy, where the Ryerson exhibition will be complemented with several artefacts already owned by the Pavilion Gallery.
Developed by the Ryerson Image Centre and Modern Literature and Culture Research Centre, Remembering the Real Winnie delves into the story of Harry Colebourn. The exhibition is the result of a multi-disciplinary approach taken by Ryerson University students, alumni, and faculty.
“Our vision was to propel the behind-the-scenes details of a world famous story, one that starts in war and ends in peace, and which we were keen to propel through different mediums and among different groups,” says Irene Gammel, director of the Modern Literature and Culture Research Centre and co-curator of the exhibition with doctoral student Kate Addleman-Frankel. “Working with outstanding professionals, including the Ryerson Image Centre’s Founding Director Doina Popescu, to involving many students in experiential learning about history, literature, curation and digital storytelling was a special treat of this project.”
Remembering the Real Winnie explores the themes of veterinary practice during World War I; military life at camp and at the front; and the genesis and popular legacy of Winnie-the-Pooh. The entire collection of objects, articles, photographs and documents in the Colebourn Family Archive is available online, catalogued and contextualized, while Harry Colebourn’s multi-layered and moving war diaries, personal veterinary kit and photographs are on display in the physical exhibition space.
Many of the materials, including Harry Colebourn’s original diaries written in the trenches, detailing the stress and violence of the Great War as well as his love and loyalty for Winnie, are culled from the family archive of Lindsay Mattick, great-granddaughter of Harry Colebourn. The Ryerson University alumna is the author of Finding Winnie, a children’s picture book on the topic illustrated by renowned artist Sophie Blackall.
The exhibition also features a digital archive and interactive exhibition experience: www.therealwinnie.ryerson.ca.
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Media coverage of the Exhibition
- CBC Radio Morning Show: Interview with Irene Gammel
- CBC News (TV and online): 'Bought bear $20': Exhibit celebrates world's most famous bear and Winnipeg vet who bought it
- Global News (TV and online): Winnipeg gets new Winnie exhibit
- ChrisD.ca (Online): New Winnie the Bear Exhibit Open at Assiniboine Park
- Winnipeg Free Press (Print and online): The man behind 'the Pooh'
- Winnipeg Sun (Print and online): Winnie the Pooh exhibit opens at Assiniboine Park
- CTV (TV and online): Interview with Irene Gammel
- CJOB (Radio): Interview with Irene Gammel
- CTV Morning Live (TV): Inverview with Irene Gammel and Lindsay Mattick
- City TV Morning Show (TV): Interview with Irene Gammel
- Storify: Remembering the Real Winnie: at Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park