Monday, 24 November 2014




Remember reading Winnie the Pooh as a child, watching the tv shows or movies, or playing with Winnie the Pooh toys? Sweet nostalgia. Recently, the Pavillion Gallery Museum in Winnipeg won a bid for a new acquisition--the only existing oil painting of Winnie the Pooh by Ernest Howard Shepherd, the original artist for the books by A.A. Milne. The price tag for this painting? $243,000.

image source:
The oil painting of Winnie the Pooh by Ernest H. Shepherd, 1879-1976,
that was recently acquired by the Pavillion Gallery Museum in Winnipeg, Manitoba. 

When I came across this news story I found it particularly interesting for two reasons:

1) the exciting world of museum acquisitions!
2) it makes me think about who’s heritage does a story belong to.

The most obvious question to me is how a museum in Assiniboine Park in Winnipeg came to be in the position of spending almost a quarter million dollars on an oil painting of Winnie the Pooh. Winnie the Pooh was written by a British author, A.A. Milne, who encountered Winnie the Bear at a zoo in London, England in 1927.

The story here seems to start in 2012 when the museum acquired a collection of 200 items of Winnie the Pooh paraphernalia through the efforts of an art dealer for Winnipeg, David Loch. The collection became the base for a new exhibit, The Pooh Gallery, as well as series of programs for children and families. The curator, Peter Heymans, spoke about how the collection could teach about this amazing history of a bear named after the city by the bear’s keeper--a veterinarian and World War I soldier from Winnipeg who bought the bear in Ontario on his way to training in Quebec and took it with him to England--that involved different parts of Canada, across the Atlantic, and eventually coming to include generations of people across the world.

image source:
Statue of Winnie the Bear with Lieutenant Harry Colebourn,
in the Nature Park beside the Pavillion Gallery Museum.
The story of how the museum acquired the painting is a little bit thrilling. The painting first came up for sale 14 years ago, and a group of Winnipeg citizens wanted to purchase it, and raised the funds through various efforts including the getting all levels of government involved. In pursuit of the artwork David Loch went took part in a Sotheby’s auction while on a trip to Toronto. The CBC commentary from the article mentioned above, paints a picture of the event: "[David Loch] made the winning bid over the phone while on a trip to Toronto. He was hooked up to Sotheby's as journalists hovered around him, waiting to find out if the painting would be heading to the Prairies." (Winnipeg outbids art lovers for painting, CBC, November 16, 2014).

As a museum enthusiast and student, this story of what a professional can get up to in their career, in the pursuit of telling a story inspires the imagination of what I could do during my own. This tale of Winnie the Pooh is not written by A.A. Milne obviously, but it is written by the community that strongly values this part of its heritage, and became a driving force for a relatively small museum to acquire a significant artwork.

This is only one story of an acquisition, but I know that readers of this blog probably have their own experiences with interacting with the intake of a new museum collection item. If you have a story about museum acquisitions that you would like to share, please post below!

1 comment:

  1. Your post also has me thinking about what other stories surrounding Winnie the Pooh and the storybook's history can emerge that are not the "obvious" or known tales around A.A. Milne's work. Having considered myself somewhat of a Pooh aficionado as a child (from reading the books, watching the films, and yes, having an extensive collection of stuffed animals from the Hundred Acre Wood), I had no idea about the *only* existing Shepherd painting or Winnipeg citizens' efforts to acquire it. It just shows how much more you can learn about a subject, and how so much of what we consider ourselves "experts" on is just the tip of the iceberg.