Horniman Museum Searches For Missing Polar Bear

By Melina Greenfield | 11 October 2006
black and white photo of two Victorian children with a stuffed polar bear

The Horniman Museum polar bear with some young fans. Courtesy the Horniman Museum

The Horniman Museum in London’s Forest Hill is hunting for one of its favourite attractions – a polar bear. The taxerdermied grizzly has been missing from the museum since it was taken off display in the 1940s.

The bear had been amazing audiences since the Horniman opened in 1901, and its disappearance has been baffling staff since it went awol nearly 60 years ago.

Janet Vitmayer, Director of the Horniman Museum, said: “The fate of the Horniman’s Polar Bear has long been of interest to us - it was after all one of the largest animals on display and very popular with visitors.”

The mystery of the polar bear will once again come under the spotlight when a new exhibition of photography by artists Mark Wilson and Bryndis Snæbjörnsdóttir is unveiled at the museum. The exhibition, Great White Bear, is a collection of images of similar stuffed polar bears and will open on October 21.

Black and white image of polar bears encased in glass

Horniman Museum North Hall circa 1912. Courtesy the Horniman Museum

It was thought that Selfridges may have taken the bear to jazz up their Christmas window display, but Wilson and Snæbjörnsdóttir, discovered fresh evidence.

A search located some key documents which revealed that a Mr Allen, a dealer from New Cross, was believed to be in possession of the stuffed bear after it was sold to him in 1948.

Staff at the museum are eager to contact the owner or anyone who has any information that might solve the 60-year-old mystery. In the meantime, the Rt Hon Hugh Crossley has kindly lent his 10-foot tall polar bear to the Horniman as a replacement while the exhibition is on.

Great White Bear runs until March 25 2007.

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