Remembering the Real Winnie Website Project

Real Winnie Collection WebsiteThis summer and fall one of the big projects I worked on was the creation of a digital collection website as part of a larger project called Remembering the Real Winnie: The World’s Most Famous Bear Turns 100.  The larger project comprised an exhibit held at the Ryerson Image Centre from November 5 – December 7, 2014, an interactive story website, a short film and the digital collection website.  It involved a large cast of contributors from the owner of the collection to staff, students, faculty members and librarians from across campus.

The small archival collection (consisting of photographs, letters, diaries, and a veterinary kit) that was the basis for this project was lent to Ryerson University by the great-granddaughter of Harry Colebourn, a veterinarian from Winnipeg.  At the outbreak of WWI, Colebourn travelled from Winnipeg to Valcartier, Quebec to join the troops heading for England.  On his way he purchased a bear cub, whom he called Winnie.  Winnie followed Colebourn to Salisbury Plain where the Canadian troops were stationed.  When the troops were sent to the Front, Colebourn took Winnie to the London Zoo.  Winnie became a star attraction at the zoo and was particularly beloved by Christopher Robin Milne whose father, A.A. Milne wrote the Winnie-the-Pooh stories.

1914 DiaryThe digital collection website was created using the Omeka open source web-publishing software developed by the Roy Rozenweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. The software can be enhanced with plugins, several of which were used for this project.  As the collection contained several diaries that Colebourn wrote between 1914-1918, the Internet Archive Book Reader was used to allow readers to flip through the pages of the diaries.  The diaries were also transcribed to allow for searching of the content of the diaries.

Other interactivity was added to allow for viewing of several of the items in the vet kit that is part of the collection.  3D scans were made and added to the SketchFab site so that they could  be integrated into the collection website.  More information about the scanning is available in the 3D Scanning Essay on the Real Winnie website.

Harry Colebourn on the Front

Several interactive maps were also created by geocoding the locations mentioned in Colebourn’s diaries and uploading this data to the CartoDB website to create maps. How these maps were created is explained in the Mapping Harry Colebourn essay.


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