Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Class exhibition at the ROM during COVID

Before the lockdown, the first one, I was able to see the exhibition Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic at the ROM created by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. 

If you grew up on Disney, as I did, my favourite character was Winnie-the-Pooh. I had almost everything you could have as it relates to the cute little bear. So, when I heard there was an entire exhibition dedicated to this wonderful character, I couldn’t resist seeing it, despite us being in a pandemic 

Because my background is in design, I look at things much differently than your average visitor. I look at the overall design of the exhibition than the content. I know, it’s the content that the curators’ take pride in developing the overall story. But to me, it’s how the content is displayed that really brings those little pieces of content to life.

The pros of visiting a world-class museum during a pandemic are that there isn’t really anyone around. I mean, crickets. So you get to experience the museum with a different sense of expansion, space, and time. You have breathing room (no pun intended) to wander without the concern of keeping your distance because there just isn’t anyone around.

Deep in the 100 acre wood

Where Christopher Robin plays

You’ll find the enchanted neighborhood

Of Christopher’s childhood days…

The exhibition starts by telling the story of how our very own White River black bear from Ontario sparked the imagination of A.A. Milne and his family when “Winnie” arrived at the London Zoo. This is something that I completely forgot about the story of this character. I remember watching those Canadian moments on TV, and this brought me back to that time and a small sense of pride that a black bear could have such an impact many years and stories later.

What I found the most impressive with the exhibition was how you were transported into the books or more specifically the 100-acre wood, literally. The trees leap out of the illustrations into the gallery and you get a sense of being a child again, wandering around and enjoying the sites and sounds. Remember Eeyore’s house? They also created a three-dimensional hut that you can climb in and enjoy.

In terms of storytelling, the exhibition is divided into Chapters like a book. Each section builds on how a book, it’s characters, story, and design are created. Each illustration tells the story of how the author and illustrator brought the narrative of Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends to life by setting the scene, laying out the page, adding colours, and finally going to print. What was special about seeing all the illustrations which are tiny and behind the glass was seeing them blown up taking up the large white walls, filling the gallery with all of Winnie’s adventures.

At the end of the exhibit, you can see all the many Winnie-the-Pooh and friends memorabilia. So many great collectors items from toys and games, to the original prints. I wonder if some of the items that I’ve had for the past 30 years are museum-worthy pieces:)

Richelle Sibolboro
Richelle Sibolboro

Design strategist and content creator for hire with a passion for arts and culture specifically in design, architecture, and travel. She has produced content for designboom, Azure magazine, Open City Projects, Digifest, and World Design Weeks. Follow her on Instagram and LinkedIn.

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