My parents and their friends came to London over Easter, and on Good Friday we went to the Sherlock Holmes exhibition at the Museum of London. We were excited by the entrance to the exhibition, which was in the form of a bookcase in which, so the assistant told us, we had to find the secret door. Unfortunately, we all felt that the exhibition itself failed to live up to this.
There were certainly many fascinating and relevant items on display, from film posters from the detective’s various incarnations over the years to original manuscripts, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1886 A Study in Scarlet notebook, containing the first ever lines of a Sherlock Holmes story, and the manuscript of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue. There were also a couple of costumes – including a traditional outfit from Holmes’s mid-20th century incarnation as well as the Belstaff coat worn by Benedict Cumberbatch in the most recent BBC series.
Overall, though, I thought that there was too little that was actually related to Sherlock Holmes, and too much context and setting the scene. For instance, there were many paintings and photographs of late nineteenth century London, which helped to put Doyle’s work in context and picture Holmes’s London, but which was not directly connected to Holmes. There were also objects on display that related to the novels and adaptations, such as Victorian ephemera like typewriters and costumes, not directly associated with Holmes.
It would be wrong to say that I did not enjoy the exhibition – I found it very interesting – but I thought it had been mis-advertised. If it had been marketed as an exhibition about nineteenth-century London, I would have been quite happy.