People around the world have their own memory of the little yellow bear in a red shirt always on the hunt for honey. However, a new exhibit will showcase the real bear that inspired the series and was named after Winnipeg.

"Remembering the Real Winnie" opened at the Pavilion galleries in Assiniboine Park on Monday.

"We began the remembering the Real Winnie project in 2014 for the beginning of the centenary of the Great War," explained curator Irene Gammel. "Our focus … was very much bringing to life the family archive."

The project was executed out of Ryerson University in Toronto and includes the exhibit as well as a website and film.

Irene Gammel

Curator Irene Gammel shows off a life-size image of the regiment that made Winnie their mascot. (CBC)

At the exhibition's opening, Gammel explained how Harry Colebourn moved from England to Winnipeg to become a veterinarian. While on his way to join the Canadian troops heading to Europe for World War I, Colebourn bought a female bear cub in White River, Ont.

He named that bear after Winnipeg — Winnie — not knowing the impact the small gesture would have 100 years later.

"'Bought bear $20,' he jotted in his tiny leather-bound diary with the year 1914 embossed in gold on its cover," Gammel said.

"Today one of the centre pieces of this exhibition is the collection of [Colebourn's] diaries that we have from 1914 to 1918."

Harry Colebourn diary

A feature of the exhibit is Harry Colebourn's diaries from 1914 to 1918. (CBC)

Although having pets wasn't strange, a pet bear got some attention, especially as the cub journeyed all the way to England.

Winnie quickly became the mascot for Colebourn's regiment. Around the exhibit are photos of different soldiers with the bear.

"Winnie had such a good temperament that she worked her way into the hearts of the soldier of the regiment," Gammel said, adding that the bear's presence helped the men "decompress from the stress of war."

Before the regiment deployed to France, Colebourn donated the cub to the London Zoo.

Just like she stole the hearts of the soldiers, Winnie became an attraction at the zoo. One particular encounter with a little boy named Christopher Robin Milne would set the bear's place in history.


Winnie the bear was the inspiration for the famous A. A. Milne character Winnie-the-Pooh. (CBC)

The young boy named his own teddy after the bear and that character was picked up by his father, author A.A. Milne, who created the Winnie-the-Pooh books.

While the cartoon may be famous for a love of honey, the exhibit focuses on the bear that started it all and the man who named it. 

Following the war, Colebourn moved back to Winnipeg and worked as a veterinarian. His great granddaughter, Lindsay Mattick, was there for the ribbon cutting.

She said she is proud and grateful that "Harry's story has finally come home."

The free exhibit runs daily at the Assiniboine Park Conservancy in The Pooh Gallery.