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Justin Bieber museum exhibit to open in hometown of Stratford

Last Updated Jan 4, 2018 at 2:18 pm EDT

Canadian singer Justin Bieber performs live during a small concert for charity in Toronto on Dec. 7, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

STRATFORD, Ont. – Mementoes from Justin Bieber’s formative years as an aspiring Canadian singer will go on display at a museum in his hometown of Stratford, Ont. next month.

“Steps to Stardom” — a reference to the young singer’s busking shows on the steps outside the local Avon Theatre — opens at the Stratford Perth Museum on Feb. 18.

The exhibit was put together by the museum’s curators in co-operation with Bieber’s grandparents, Diane and Bruce Dale, who gave them access to an extensive archive of items from the performer’s childhood and career.

Among the pieces set for display are Bieber’s Grammy Award, microphones, a hockey bag, and personal letters, including one from Michelle Obama.

About 125 items of interest were collected and will be narrowed down to between 50 and 75 pieces for display. After that, the ongoing exhibit will be refreshed with new items as time passes.

John Kastner, general manager of the museum, said organizers had been considering a Bieber exhibit for a while.

But plans didn’t begin to take shape until last summer when Conservative MP Peter Van Loan, the heritage critic for his party, visited the museum with his family and noted there wasn’t acknowledgment of Bieber’s history in the city.

He wasn’t the only person who asked about the superstar’s absence, Kastner said, but this time it was different.

“This was a (former) cabinet minister,” he said. “That sort of stuck with me.”

Seeing Bieber’s childhood stomping grounds has been a highlight for many visitors to the small city for years. In 2010, Stratford’s tourism board unveiled a “Bieber-iffic Map” highlighting 24 locations linked to the singer.

Organizers hope “Steps to Stardom” will have a similar appeal to Bieber’s loyal fan base, but also draw more casual music fans. The museum is also pushing for a broader selection of exhibits that would cater more specifically to millennial interests.

Kastner acknowledges some visitors will probably scoff at a pop star’s history being on display alongside more traditional artifacts, which include a history of the local fire department and a tribute to Stratford as a railway hub.

Even if not everyone is ready to catch Bieber fever, he hopes they’ll understand why the museum thinks this exhibit makes sense.

“You (must) tell this story if we’re going to be relevant and we’re going to be modern,” Kastner said.

“I think it’s a job for museums to tell stories and this is a great story.”

— By David Friend in Toronto