Welcome back, Winnie-the-Pooh!
“Pooh was mine, and probably, clasped in my arms not very different from the countless other bears clasped in the arms of countless other children. From time to time he went to the cleaners, and from time to time ears had
to be sewn on again, lost eyes replaced and paws renewed.”
—The Enchanted Places by Christopher Milne aka Christopher Robin
Winnie-the-Pooh is back in The New York Public Library’s Children’s Room, and he brought his friends!
The beloved bear, Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga and Tigger were GON OUT BACKSON BISY BACKSON for the past year as they got meticulously preserved for the next generation. But now they’re back on display against a map of the Hundred Acre Wood, that fuzzy space between make believe and Sussex, England, where author A. A. Milne lived with his family.
All of the toys were first sent “to the cleaners” when they were donated to the Library in 1987.
But now, thanks to this latest round of treatment, they “resemble their original selves,” according to Evelyn Frangakis, assistant director of preservation for the Library—pretty good considering dear, old Pooh Bear will celebrate his 95th birthday later this month. Both children and adults have been busy making him birthday cards online and in the Children’s Room to celebrate the occasion.
Winnie-the-Pooh got a nip/tuck during his recent trip: Some stuffing and stitches were pushed back in; his paws and snout were covered with a thin, protective mesh; and his butt was steamed and fluffed so it’ll look top-notch hanging out of a HUNNY tree, maybe in nearby Bryant Park.
This is where Piglet chimes in. We’re getting to you, Piglet!
Piglet had his snout adjusted; Kanga had her head straightened; Tigger had his bottom fluffed.
No surprise, Eeyore needed the most work. OH, BOTHER. He is by far the biggest doll and also one of the oldest. A whopping 52 of his patches were removed—some were cleaned, treated, and sewn back on. Others were replaced, and the rest were sent back to the Library for safekeeping.
All of the dolls were vacuumed and put on new mounts so they can sit up and greet their hundreds of thousands of guests each year, many of whom leave happy fingerprints on the glass.
One caveat: Alterations made when the dolls were in the care of the Milne family were carefully evaluated and preserved, said Michael Inman, the Library’s caretaker of the Winnie-the-Pooh dolls.
“We take conservatorship of the dolls very, very seriously,” said Inman. “We work to ensure these things survive indefinitely.”
Milne first bought Edward Bear, or Teddy, at Harrods of London and gave him to his son Christopher Robin for his first birthday. As the boy grew, he became known as Billy; the bear, as Winnie. Billy renamed his toy for a bear he met at the London Zoo. The name stuck, and it is now a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a testament to how much Pooh is loved.
Milne, illustrator Ernest H. Shepard, and other FRENDS AND RALETIONS also gave the British boy Piglet, Eeyore, Tigger, Kanga, and Roo as presents. (Owl and Rabbit were entirely fictional.) Before long, Milne was writing and Shepard was illustrating the stories that have captured children’s and adult’s imaginations.
Roo, the tiniest toy of all, got lost in an apple orchard early on, but the rest went on a tour of America with publisher E.P. Dutton & Co. in 1947 and were later donated to the Library, where they are as cherished now as they were when Winnie-the-Pooh was first published in 1926.
When the book debuted, the New York Times recommended it as the perfect Christmas gift, hailing it as “a wholly charming little tale” about a bear, who is “constantly having unexpected adventures and going off on exciting trips.”
Going to “the cleaners” is just one of many.