Legendary Polar Bear returns to Ulster Museum ahead of £17 million reopening

By Culture24 Staff | 09 October 2009
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A photo of a woman attending to an exhibit of a polar bear

(Above) Peter the Polar Bear will return to the new-look Ulster Museum

The stuffed body of an 800-pound Polar Bear which terrified keepers at Belfast's Ulster Museum in the 1970s by threatening to go on a posthumous rampage has returned to the centre as it prepares to reopen following a £17 million overhaul.

Peter the Polar Bear shot to international fame when a night watchman called the police after hearing unusual noises coming from the corpse following its move to the Museum from Belfast Zoo in August 1972.

International press coverage established the 30-year-old bear as a folklore legend during turbulent times in the country, swiftly becoming one of the most popular exhibits at the Museum.

A picture of a woman tending to a stuffed Polar Bear

Peter was thought to have been about 30 when he died in 1972

"Peter the Polar Bear holds a special place in the hearts of many people in Northern Ireland and we are privileged to have him in our collection," said Dr Jim McGreevy, Director of Collections and Interpretation of National Museums Northern Ireland.

"It is unlikely we would ever get another one given that the very existence of the Polar Bear could be under threat. Peter is one of the last remaining objects to be installed."

A picture of a man posing next to a stuffed Polar Bear in a museum

The bear featured in a 2007 BBC documentary chronicling quirky stories from the period of the Troubles in Northern Ireland

The hairy star will take pride of place in the Window On Our World display tower at the new-look Museum, which will open on October 22 2009.

"Visitors can look forward to a very different museum experience," added McGeevy.

"The redevelopment has entirely transformed the museum and allowed us to create much more engaging galleries and exhibitions as well as introduce new, state-of-the-art interactive and learning facilities."

The opening date coincides with the 80th anniversary of the opening of the original Ulster Museum, the Belfast Municipal Museum and Art Gallery, in 1929.

Other highlights include the six-metre long skeleton of the largest real dinosaur fossil in Ireland, a 23-metre high atrium area, three new education zones and extended opening hours.

Open 10am-5pm Tuesday-Sunday. Visit the Ulster Museum online

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