**Note: Photo heavy post! Video at bottom.
Here’s some good news for teddy bear fans: you don’t have to fly all the way to South Korea to visit their Teddy Bear Museum. We have one right here in Malaysia, and it’s pretty awesome!
Tucked within DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Penang at Batu Feringghi is Teddyville Museum, a fun and interactive space that features the iconic, well loved toys that have been (and still are) a comforting companion to generations of children and adults for over a century. Covering 9,000 square feet, the museum is a good place to learn not only about teddy bear history, but also the story of Penang island.
Don’t forget to pose with this giant teddy at the entrance! It stands (or sits) at a height twice as much as an average human, namely me. lol.
The first section of the museum is dedicated to classic bears, some of which date back to the 1900s! The teddy bears of today have a pretty standard look, but classic teddies varied in material and appearance, and came in all shapes and sizes – like the one above which had very long strands of ‘fur’, next to two carved wooden ones.
Have you ever wondered why they call it a ‘Teddy’ bear? The toys were named after US President Theodore ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt. The story goes that the president was on a bear hunting trip in Mississippi in 1902. Roosevelt’s assistants cornered and tied a black bear to a willow tree, and suggested he shoot it, but viewing this as unsportsmanlike, Roosevelt refused. News spread about the ‘big game hunter’ who refused to shoot a bear – and it was immortalised in a caricature published in the Washington Post.
It is perhaps for this reason that early bears were depicted with ‘sad’ expressions, having been spared of a grizzly fate
(grizzly/grisly geddit? i amuse myself sometimes ha.)
It wasn’t until the 1920s that bears started having happier expressions.
World War I soldiers often brought teddies along as companions. Sadly, not all (both teddy and human) returned to their loved ones.
Some of the most expensive pieces in the house include this 1925 ‘Peter Bear’ by Gebruder Sussenguth, valued at RM21,000 (5000USD!). It had a hollow head with movable eyes and tongue, and was made from a moulded type of plaster called composition.
It may be 21k but to me this looks like the Annabelle of Teddies. I wouldn’t want to have it in the room, let alone sleep with it!
The original Winnie the Pooh bear!
In the 1940s, World War II came and due to a shortage of materials, teddies were made with shorter snouts and limbs. This is much closer to the version we see today.
Rolling into the Rock N’Roll era, we have an Elvis-inspired teddy, complete with the singer’s signature white studded jumpsuit with flared collar.
The Teddy Ruxpin series, which were fitted with casette tapes and could ‘read’ stories, became best selling toys in the 1980s.
The next few sections of the museum tell the story of Penang from its inception. I loved this section and spent well over an hour exploring the displays and noting small details. It really showed how much heart and effort was put into the making of these teddies and sets! 🙂
(Above) Arrival of the British, as told through miniature teddies. Was super impressed with the level of detail !
For those not familiar with Malaysian history, Penang island was ‘founded’ in the 1700s by Captain Sir Francis Light, an Englishman for the British East India company. Foreign powers were expanding quickly in the Malayan Straits and Southeast Asia, and everyone wanted a piece of the pie. Penang’s strategic location allowed it to become a bustling centre of trade and commerce – so kudos to Light for having the foresight to ‘book’ the island under British influence.
A large teddy version of Light.
Stories go that he was a bit of an ass though, as he leased the island from the Sultanate of Kedah with the promise that British forces would help if Siam attacked the kingdom, but then bailed on his promise. He died from malaria at the age of 54, and visitors to the Protestant Cemetery in Penang will find his tomb there.
The next section highlighted the three main races in Peninsula Malaysia, namely Malay, Chinese and Indian.
The miniature Indian teddy set was done like a Hindu temple, complete with an intricate silver chariot pulled by bulls, kavadi-bearing teddies, temple priests, tiny coconut shells to represent the real ones used during religious festivals, and of course, teddies dressed in traditional Indian cultural garb.
The large kavadi-bearing teddy in saffron robes and a metal rod skewered through its cheeks.
A traditional ‘kampung’ (village) setting was used to highlight Malay culture. The ‘female’ teddies even wore tudungs, lol. In a corner (not pictured) were teddies cooking food in a kawah (cauldron) – a scene familiar to festivals and events in the kampung, where everyone pitches in to help with the preparations.
Immensely amused that the ‘Chinese’ teddies had slits for eyes lol.
Scene based on Penang’s famous Taoist/Buddhist temple, Kek Lok Si.
Moving on to landmarks in Penang, we have a recreation of Siam Road’s famous char koay teow stall. They even have the owner’s grumpy expression down pat! (PS: The owner of the stall is always grumpy looking coz he has a lot of customers to serve.)
Mini set of Gurney Drive’s hawker stalls. Again, super impressed with the level of detail. The teddies aren’t just in the same poses – we have teddies taking pictures of the food, teddies ordering, etc.
Penang is an island after all, so of course the museum has to have a set featuring its beaches.
Another famous attraction – Penang Hill – featuring the funicular train.
Lol school trip with cikgu and students in uniforms.
I could spend hours looking at the tiny details: teddy kids holding lollipops, a group of (presumably) teenage teddies with a miniature iPhone taking selfies, teddies looking through the observation binoculars.
Typical scene at a Chinese kopitiam in Penang.
We also have a teddy dedicated to Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic, who popularised Penang through his beautiful street murals.
The process of making traditional batik.
Teddy decked out in the Penang International Marathon runner’s tee. I have one of these 😀
The dragon boat festival is one of the highlights of the island’s annual calendar.
The museum also gives a nod to Penang’s industrial side, with these factory workers assembling electronics.
Paying tribute to our national sporting heroes. Can you guess who they are? 😀
Here’s a short video I put together:
I really enjoyed my visit to the Teddyville Museum and it exceeded my expectations with its beautiful sets, meticulous attention to detail and wonderful showcase of Malaysian heritage. I think it’ll be a great place to take the kids to and teach them in a fun and educational way about Penang’s history and culture.
56, Jalan Low Yat, Puncak Ria, 11100 Batu Ferringhi, Pulau Pinang
*Located within DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Penang
Entry: RM36 (adults/MYKAD), RM25 (children/MYKAD)
Open daily: 9AM – 6PM