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From Stratford to stardom: Check out items from the new Justin Bieber museum exhibit

Offering everything from shoes to early sports photos, the small-town exhibit is garnering worldwide attention

Offering everything from shoes to early sports photos, the small-town exhibit is garnering worldwide attention

A young Justin Bieber plays the drums in this undated handout image. Mementoes from Bieber's formative years as an aspiring Canadian singer, including the drums, will go on display next month at a museum exhibit in his hometown of Stratford, Ontario. (Stratford Pearth Museum/Canadian Press)

Justin Bieber is one of the biggest stars on the planet, and now a new museum exhibit in his tiny hometown of Stratford, Ont., is tracing the pop icon's career back to its earliest roots. 

The phone is already ringing off the hook at the Stratford Perth Museum, where staff have been fielding thousands of calls and emails from fans, tour companies and media across North America, Europe and Japan.

Then again, the story of Bieber's rise is as storybook as they come. Even as a toddler he showed immense musical promise, drumming on household objects and strumming on guitar — and doing it well. 

Titled Steps to Stardom, the show includes dozens of items dutifully saved by Bieber's family, from crew t-shirts and backstage passes to early hockey photos and gear. 

"This is a jacket from minor atom, so he would be about 10 or 11 years old," says exhibit curator John Kassner, who collected over 100 items from Bieber's grandparents alone.

"This is one of the things that came from his family. It's got his nickname Biebs on the back. This was long before he became signed with Def Jam Records. He was still known around town as Biebs."

Long before Justin Bieber became famous, he was known around Stratford as "Biebs." His jacket from those childhood days is one of the items on display at the Stratford Perth Museum. (Stratford Perth Museum)
The microphone Justin Bieber used to record one of his first songs. (Stratford Perth Museum)
Justin Bieber's Teen Choice Award. (Stratford Perth Museum)

Kassner says the exhibit — which Bieber approved via text message — has created quite the buzz in the community, and many locals stepped forward with Bieber-related items they had stored away, among them a signed library card and a hockey bag.

"Great exhibits grow organically. Word got out in the community that we were doing this exhibit, and a woman who worked at the Stratford Festival called and said, 'I have something in my garage you might like,'" remembers Kassner. "And it's this hockey bag with Justin Bieber's name in it. Her son played with Justin and somehow ended up with his hockey bag."

Justin Bieber's gym bag from his minor hockey days. (Stratford Perth Museum)
A thank you letter to Justin Bieber from Michelle Obama. (Stratford Perth Museum)
A photo of Justin Bieber's hockey team, the Stratford Warriors. (Stratford Perth Museum)

Bieber's grade 7 teacher Kim Booker says that Bieber was just a normal kid who liked to play sports and hang out with his friends — and one who would always make sure his trademark coif was just right.

"He was a Grade 7 boy. He was 12 years old, and he was one of the crowd. He was certainly enthusiastic and energetic. He wasn't shy and retiring. He was just a normal boy," remembered Booker in a q interview from the exhibit.

"Justin was very competitive and very athletic and I do remember him playing basketball frequently," says Booker. "If he had any spare time he'd be playing basketball, and he's really skilled at it. He could bounce behind and underneath his legs and whatnot."

Justin Bieber's former teacher, Kim Booker, at the Stratford Perth Museum's Steps to Stardom exhibit in Stratford, Ont. Booker taught Bieber in Grade 7 and part of Grade 8 at Stratford Northwestern Secondary School. (Elaine Chau/CBC)
Most of the Justin Bieber artifacts for the Steps to Stardom exhibit at the Stratford Perth Museum came from Bruce and Diane Dale's personal collection of their grandson's memorabilia. (Colin Butler/CBC News)
Some of Justin Bieber's running shoes are on display. (Stratford Perth Museum)

When the exhibit opened on Sunday morning, over 100 Bieber fans were lined up to be among the first to check it out. Among them were Beliebers from the U.S., France and China. 

Bieber himself was not in attendance, but both Booker and Kassner say he regularly makes unannounced visits to the town, population just over 31,000, and will ride the city bus or show up at the local Tim Horton's and chat with customers and staff.

"He's almost never turns off the performer part," says Kassner. "It's a Saturday morning at Tim Hortons, it's busy, and he could have gone through the drive through, or he could have sent somebody to get something. But no, he'll go in and he'll stand in line and he creates a buzz in the place," says Kassner. "Some are giddy and some are crying, and he's saying hi and there's a verbal exchange that takes place, and he makes the other person feel comfortable."

Justin Bieber's soccer cards from 2005. (Elaine Chau/CBC)
A backstage pass to a concert by pop superstar and Bieber's on-again-off-again girlfriend Selena Gomez. (Elaine Chau/CBC)
Nathan McKay, a family friend and early promoter of Justin Bieber's early concerts, at the Stratford Perth Museum's Steps to Stardom exhibit in Stratford, Ont. McKay ran the original fundraiser to buy Bieber a set of drums. (Elaine Chau/CBC)

"My students were on the city bus and Justin got on with his bodyguard, and they rode around on the city bus," adds Booker. "My students were thrilled."

So if we could deliver a message to Bieber from Booker, what would it be?

"Nicely done man," she says. "Good for you."

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