Coats and hats are in my mind again, so familiar and evocative, whilst my last visit to the Museum of London featured a Cumberbatch overcoat and an iconic deerstalker, this time I have come to see a little blue duffle coat and a little red hat. Whilst Sherlock is instantly recognisable with a pipe and a magnifying glass, I only need a battered suitcase and a small marmalade sandwich to be taken back to my childhood.
I am enchanted all over again, and surprisingly so by a small Peruvian charmer. The Museum of London have embraced all things Paddington this winter with a lovely free exhibition taking the visitor through the various incarnations of a well-loved family favourite. From a signed 1958 first edition of the debut story “A Bear Called Paddington”, to the 1970s puppet used in the original television show, to 2014 props used in Paddington’s cinematic debut.
I think what surprised me was the nostalgia I felt on seeing the 2D characters from the original 1970s television series. A trip back in time to when a stop-motion animated little bear came to life surrounded by animated drawings of the ‘Brown’ family. I loved reading the labels comparing methods used in the 1970s to the modern techniques used in the new 2014 film. They had taken photos of the coat and hat to capture the texture and physical dimensions and then used computers to generate a realistic 3D version.
There is a welcoming family area where your child can embrace their inner Paddington with a lovely suitcase full of essence of bear with a map to Darkest Peru, a surprisingly realistic marmalade sandwich and beautiful blue duffle coat, with of course a sweet red hat. My only quibble is there was not an adult version I could slip on – who doesn’t want to dress up as Paddington Bear?!
I enjoyed talking conservation with Museum of London staff, the complications of degrading plastic (little red boots) and the work that had gone into the hardback first edition of the first Paddington story on display. The copy belongs to Michael Bond’s daughter and she was thrilled that its fragile front cover had been carefully repaired. Most charming was the little puppet used in the original television show. When they received it, a tiny toggle was missing from the coat, they found it in the pocket and were given permission to sew it back on. It seems the Museum of London are taking very seriously Paddington’s note on his coat to “Please look after this bear. Thank you”.
As I was getting ready to leave, two small children came rushing up to the cases, they had their own teddy bears tightly gripped in their hands, the exhibition wasn’t due to open till the next day but there was no keeping them back. They were captivated by what they saw, ultimately a little bear dressed up ready for a day out. That is what I love about this exhibition, there really is something for every generation, a little nostalgia for me and for my children a chance to meet a Peruvian, marmalade loving, well dressed, teddy bear.
A Bear Called Paddington is a free exhibition at the Museum of London that runs from 14 November – 4 January 2015
There is also a Paddington Trail around London, from 4 November till 30 December. 50 Paddington statues can be found across London created by artists, designers and celebrities.