I joke about the deerstalker (though they are on sale in the shop, naturally).
The exhibition is divided into four main sections. The first (entered through an amusingly concealed doorway) contains banks of screens, showing highlights of numberless TV and film adaptations, from a John Barrymore 1922 silent to the work of Robert Downey Jnr. (and seemingly every major UK character actor in between). There's also a lovely 1903 film reel of traffic and scenes in Edwardian London, taking up an entire wall.
The video walls are, perhaps, a prelude to the exhibition proper. For the next section considers the origins of Holmes from Poe's Murders in the Rue Morgue to Conan Doyle's faltering start, which almost saw his great detective christened Sherrinford. There's also a chance to hear a 1927 interview with Conan Doyle, and note his Scottish accent; see a rare original of A Study in Scarlet as it appeared in Beeton's Christmas Annual in 1887 (only eleven copies survive) and see Holmes come to life in Paget's famous illustrations.
|Sherinford Holmes in Conan Doyle's original MS (copyright Museum of London)|
The next section explores Holmes' London, largely through maps, paintings and photographs. Video monitors show modern hi-speed dashes through routes taken in the stories. Nineteenth century maps, above the screens, place them in context. Small photographs of street scenes, on a wall nearby, are fascinating documents of the period (and include quite a few I have not seen before). The paintings are familiar from other exhibitions but gorgeous (Dollman's Les Miserables - showing a snowbound cab shelter, cabs and horses - is a real treat). Neat touches include a wall of random Edwardian postcards, showing Imperial London in all its grandeur (and a chance to read the messages on the back - including one in indecipherable shorthand).
Finally, you come to Sherlock himself - or, rather, the character and his world, broken down into material categories: clothing (from Edwardian evening wear to - gasp, ladies, contain yourselves - Benedict Cumberbatch's coat); technology (telephones, telegraphs, typewriters); detective equipment (police handcuffs, fingerprinting kits); and various everyday (and not so everyday) things that feature in the stories. Thus you can also see pipes and tobacco; a box of Victorian theatrical make-up (in honour of Sherlock as master of disguise); and guns and swordsticks (loved the swordsticks).
Throughout, there is a sense of perfect balance: between the demands of hardcore fans (several items in the exhibition are normally in the hands of private collectors and won't be seen again in a hurry) and the general public; between the broader 'world' of Sherlock Holmes, and the details of the character; and, not least, between the various competing TV/film adaptations and the original Victorian literary origins. There is not much at all of the present Benedict Cumberbatch version (I guess some people may find that surprising, but I was grateful for it); and I came away with two thoughts - that the Museum had really captured the essence of Sherlock; and that they'd had a whale of a time putting this together, an enthusiasm which will undoubtedly transfer to their visitors.
|(copyright Museum of London)|
|(copyright Museum of London)|
|The curator hard at work (copyright Museum of London)|