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Remembering the Real Winnie: The World's Most Famous Bear Turns 100

November 5 – December 7, 2014
Student Gallery, Ryerson Image Centre
Guest Curators: Kate Addleman-Frankel and Irene Gammel

This interdisciplinary project focuses on a unique chapter of Canadian history from World War I. The Colebourn Family Archive, which comprises photographs and ephemera such as diaries, letters, newspaper clippings and a full veterinary kit from the period, will be shared with the public for the very first time. Its objects attest to the story of Canadian soldier and veterinarian Harry Colebourn (1887–1947), who, at the onset of the war, purchased a pet bear he named Winnie, after his hometown of Winnipeg. When his regiment shipped out, Harry took Winnie with him, depositing the bear in the London Zoo when he was called to the front. It is then that AA Milne and his son encountered the bear and the world famous Winnie the Pooh books were born.

This exhibition focuses on the role of photography within the archive, positioning the collection of images alongside other original artifacts. To complement the exhibition, a multi-faceted website has been launched to make the entire collection digitally accessible to scholars and the general public. The site includes cutting-edge interactive storytelling features, allowing for the development of international online dialogues.

Students, recent alumni and faculty from across the Ryerson campus have come together to co-develop this multidisciplinary project.

Presented by Ryerson University.
Generously supported by Scotiabank.
Collection website developed by Ryerson University Library and Archives, therealwinnie.ryerson.ca/collection
Interactive website developed by Transmedia Zone, therealwinnie.ryerson.ca/interactive

Organized in collaboration with Ryerson University students, recent alumni and faculty from:
Ryerson Image Centre
Modern Literature and Culture Research Centre
Film and Photography Preservation and Collections Management, School of Image Arts
Department of English
Children’s Literature Archive
Department of History
School of Early Childhood Studies
Fiion, Transmedia Zone (TMZ)
Digital Media Zone (DMZ)
Centre for Digital Humanities
Ryerson University Library and Archives
Department of Architectural Science

Presented with the participation of Archive of Modern Conflict; Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph; Narrative PR; STAMP; and Married to Giants.  

Special thanks to Lindsay Mattick for making the Colebourn Family Archive available to Ryerson University for purposes of exhibition, research and study.


Opening Reception

Wednesday, November 5
6:00 – 8:00 PM

A bear cub standing to eat out of a man's palm
Fig. 1

Photographer unknown, Harry Colebourn feeding Winnie, Salisbury Plain, England, 1914, gelatin silver print. From The Colebourn Family Archive

A group of soldiers pose for a photo
Fig. 2

Photographer unknown, Second Canadian Infantry Brigade HQ Staff, Valcartier, Quebec, 1914, gelatin silver print. From The Colebourn Family Archive

Harry Coleburn wearing his military uniform
Fig. 3

Photographer unknown, Portrait of Harry Colebourn, ca. 1914–1919, gelatin silver print. From The Colebourn Family Archive

A worn daily planner with purple scribbles. Date reads August 1914
Fig. 4

Harry Colebourn’s diary, 1914. From The Colebourn Family Archive

An old black leather bag with veterinary instruments strewn around it
Fig. 5

Harry Colebourn’s veterinary bag and a selection of instruments. From The Colebourn Family Archive

Curator Bios

Kate Addleman-Frankel
Guest Curator

Kate Addleman-Frankel is a doctoral student in the University of Toronto’s Department of Art and holds an MA in Photographic Preservation and Collections Management from Ryerson University. She writes regularly on the visual arts for publications including Canadian Art and Border Crossings and is Assistant Curator of DISPATCH: War Photographs in Print, 1854–2008 (Ryerson Image Centre, 2014). Her article A Process of Selection: Edouard Baldus, the New Louvre Photographs, and Palais du Louvre et des Tuileries appears in History of Photography 38:3 (August 2014).

Irene Gammel
Guest Curator

Irene Gammel holds a Canada Research Chair in Modern Literature and Culture at Ryerson University in Toronto, where she is Professor of English and also directs the Modern Literature and Culture Research Centre. She is the author of many articles and books including Looking for Anne of Green Gables (St. Martin's Press). Her current research focuses on the literature and visual culture of the Great War with a focus on Canada. She is the co-curator of Remembering The Real Winnie: The World’s Most Famous Bear Turns 100.

Installation Shots

Gallery with grey walls and a display case in the center
Fig. 1

Remembering the Real Winnie: The World’s Most Famous Bear Turns 100 (installation view), 2014 © Marcos Armstrong, Ryerson Image Centre

A line of old photographs in black frames, a white case hanging below containing old books
Fig. 2

Remembering the Real Winnie: The World’s Most Famous Bear Turns 100 (installation view), 2014 © Marcos Armstrong, Ryerson Image Centre

Two old books open in a display case
Fig. 3

Remembering the Real Winnie: The World’s Most Famous Bear Turns 100 (installation view), 2014 © Marcos Armstrong, Ryerson Image Centre