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New Sherlock Holmes exhibition

A portrait of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, rare manuscripts and Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock costume are amongst the items on display to the viewing public at the Museum of London’s new Sherlock Holmes exhibition.

The exhibition will be the largest of its kind for over 60 years, drawing on the museum’s fabulous Victorian and Edwardian collection and bringing together Sherlock Holmes material from across the globe, including several key world class loans. The rarities will be on show in the city that inspired the stories and is – in all its fogs, populous streets, criminal underworld and celebrated landmarks – like another character in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s prolific canon.

Visitors will re-trace the literary beginnings of Sherlock Holmes, from original manuscripts to the first copies of The Strand magazine in 1891, examining how the consulting detective has evolved from Conan Doyle’s early concepts. The American literary great, Edgar Allan Poe, was a formative influence on the Sherlock author, and the exhibition will include a rare loan of hand-written manuscript pages from The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1841), the seminal crime fiction story of its era, on loan from the Free Library of Philadelphia and in the UK for the first time. Joining this is Conan Doyle’s own manuscript of The Adventure of the Empty House (1903), the story which sees the return of Sherlock Holmes after his confrontation with Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls (on loan from The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia).

Original drawings by Sidney Paget, who illustrated the stories in The Strand magazine, will appear alongside a unique oil on canvas painting by the same artist, which is being displayed to the UK public for the first time. The painting, which is kindly on loan from the Conan Doyle Foundation and is currently undergoing conservation in Switzerland, conveys a compelling psychological portrait of the author at the height of his literary fame in 1897. Painted by his friend and illustrator, we are able to see close up the man who created Sherlock Holmes.

The evolution of Holmes and his portrayal in popular culture will be considered from stage to screen, including the performances of William Gillette, Basil Rathbone and (the definitive Sherlock Holmes) Jeremy Brett. Each actor offers clues to why he has endured, reinvented for generation after generation – an underlying theme of the exhibition. Bringing the stories into the 21st century, costume from the recent television series starring Benedict Cumberbatch will go on display, including his famous Belstaff coat and the Derek Rose camel dressing gown, worn by Cumberbatch himself, on loan from Hartswood Films.

Paintings, drawings, illustrations and photographs will examine how Victorian London and the cultural climate of the day informed Conan Doyle’s stories and characters, interpreting renowned artists and photographers through the prism of Sherlock Holmes and identifying key locations. The stories and images reinforce each other to create the seminal views of Holmes’s London embedded in our cultural memory.

Sherlock Holmes opens at the Museum of London on Friday 17th October 2014 and runs until Sunday 12th April 2015.

See the Museum of London for details about booking.

Follow the Museum of London on Twitter @museumoflondon.

Greg Jameson
Greg Jameson
Book editor, with an interest in cult TV.

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