Since I’m not a Florida local, I’m constantly on the lookout for Disney magic closer to home. It seems as if the powers that be heard my cries because, back in September, the exhibit “Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic” opened at the Museum of Fine Arts right in Boston. This past week, I finally made it over, and it was just as adorable and magical as you’d imagine.
Winnie-the-Pooh was first published in 1926, and this silly old bear has traveled far and wide in his 90+ years of existence. The Winnie-the-Pooh exhibit tries to touch on a bit of each aspect of Pooh’s existence by sharing personal letters, original drawings, and life-sized scenery sets that allow you to step into the pages of A.A. Milne’s timeless tale of a boy and his pals.
The exhibit begins by telling visitors a bit about Pooh’s widespread reach. His story has been translated into over 50 languages and continues to constantly evolve. We see modern items of fashion beside carefully crafted miniature figurines from the 1930s. Those figurines were some of my favorite items on display. Pooh’s face can be seen everywhere — from toys, to books, to kitchenware, to clothing, and more. He really has become an icon.
Of course, no story of Pooh’s history is complete without talking about the Milne family and the special, real young boy who stepped into the Hundred Acre Woods — Christopher Robin.
Christopher received his first teddy bear for his first birthday, and his mother is the one who brought that bear to life in the boy’s eyes. This friendship was so powerful that it inspired Christopher’s father to put pen to paper and introduce the rest of us to Winnie-the-Pooh. One of the first interactive elements of the exhibit is a small bedroom, complete with a four-post bed and a basket of books. The exhibit explicitly invites children to have a seat and enjoy a good story. Slowly, visitors are entering Pooh’s world.
Around a corner, fans of Winnie-the-Pooh will immediately recognize the wooden bridge where Poohsticks was invented! I could walk across the bridge, and look over the railing, down to a moving river, a screen projection, complete with the sound of babbling water. The pencil-drawn style of the bridge put me right in the books I’ve read so many times.
Around me, on every wall, were original drawings, pictures, and letters from those who brought us Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, Tigger, Rabbit, Owl, and all of their friends. I could see how their shapes and expressions changed, but there was familiarity in every twinkling eye. Why, yes, Pooh! Those do look like Woozle tracks!!
This clever exhibit made magnificent use of every inch of space, with recognizable lines climbing up the walls and enormous trees blossoming right in the middle of the room. While I didn’t personally enjoy these offerings, it was great to see the Museum had lots of interactive elements for children. There was a slide, a craft table, and multiple baskets of books with cozy nooks for reading. I felt transported to a simpler, more peaceful time, and it was a magnificent escape.
The last stretch of the exhibit explored the growth of Pooh, introducing colored illustrations and showing where Pooh stepped out of his world. I had heard of The Tao of Pooh when I was in college, but did you know that Pooh also has a workout book, a feng shui guide, advice on management, and more? He’s a crafty little fellow! I loved seeing the transition from classic to new. Seeing the first edition of Winnie the Pooh was another favorite.
I could see the end of the exhibit getting ever closer, but I didn’t want to leave. I could hunker down and sit there for hours. Sadly, the Museum was closing, and I wasn’t about to anger security. As with anything Disney, there was a gift shop, so I picked up some souvenirs and moved on my way, remembering that it isn’t really good-bye.
The Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic exhibit is primarily comprised of pieces from the archives of the Victoria and Albert Museum. The exhibition first ran in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London from December 9, 2017 through April 8, 2018. Then, it traveled to High Museum in Atlanta, Georgia where it was on display from June 3 through September 2, 2018. Finally, it popped up to Boston on September 22, 2018 and will remain here until January 6, 2019. For more information on the exhibit while it is here in Boston (including ticket and admission details), check out the MFA website here! Also, note that the Museum will be offering a low sensory session for guests who prefer to enjoy the exhibit with a bit less hustle and bustle on December 8. I haven’t been able to find the exhibit’s next stop, but I hope it continues touring so more people are able to enjoy this precious experience!