September 2018 | Barbara Basbanes Richter

Winnie-the-Pooh Wanders into the MFA Boston


A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh has never suffered for lack of exposure--far from it. Since the publication of Milne's first children's book starring a loveable, honey-hungry bear in 1926, Winnie-the-Pooh has been translated into fifty languages and been the subject of numerous films and exhibitions. Here's one more to add to the list: on September 22, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston will present nearly 200 drawings, letters, photographs, and ephemera in a show entitled, Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic.

The exhibition originated in 2017 at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London where most of the items on display are part of that institution's permanent collections. The show then made its way to the High Museum in Atlanta before setting up in Boston.

The goal of the show is to explore various relationships between a bear and a boy, the interplay between Milne's text and the art of E.H. Shepard, and how classic children's literature remains relevant in the 21st century.

Highlights include Shepard's first character portraits of Winnie, Eeyore, Kanga, and other creatures of the Hundred Acre Wood, a 1926 handwritten letter from Milne to Shepard, and photos of Milne's family.

The show is definitely geared towards children, and the MFA curators have installed various interactive elements, such as recreations of Pooh's home and the childhood bedroom of Christopher Milne, the inspiration for Christopher Robin. Cuddle-worthy corners throughout the gallery invite children to read, draw, and even listen to a 1929 recording of Milne reading Winnie-the-Pooh aloud. Co-sponsored by Hood Milk, visitors who attend on opening day can enjoy games like a round of ring toss on the MFA's Huntington Avenue lawn along with generous servings of cookies, milk, and Hoodsie cups. 

To paraphrase Pooh himself, you can't stay in your corner of the forest waiting for this show. Check it out before it heads back to London.


Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic runs from September 22 through January 6, 2019 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. More information at


Images, from top: Winnie-the-Pooh first edition, 1926, published in London by Methuen & Co. Ltd; printed by Jarrold & Sons Ltd. "Pooh sitting on his branch ... beside him, ten pots of honey," 1970, Ernest Howard Shepard.