“Watson. Come at once if convenient. If inconvenient, come all the same.”
(Sir Arthur Conan Doyle -The Creeping Man )
In this very exciting exhibition history fans and Sherlockians are able to journey back to Sherlock Holmes’ Victorian London and help solve a fascinating murder mystery.
The International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes opened on 3 June at the MAAS Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo and runs until 8 October 2017.
Museum visitors explore the science and mystery behind the world of Sherlock Holmes and the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, doctor-turned-author, and the man behind the legend.
Holmes was a chemistry and forensics expert ahead of his time, who used seemingly trivial observations of evidence that others missed, or interpreted incorrectly, to solve challenging mysteries.
The exhibition shows how his methods altered the way police work was conducted in the real world, leading the way to the modern forensics of today.
This exhibition features over 350 objects and some of it is interactive (or ‘immersive’ as the Museum refers to it).
Exhibition attendees assume Watson’s mantle and work side-by-side with Holmes, becoming his ears and eyes as he tackles a baffling new case. For example, carefully observing, we collect clues and we learn how to conduct footprint and blood splatter analysis, examine botanical samples (are any of them poisonous?) and try our hand at chromatography.
As we enter the exhibition we are handed a ‘notebook’, written exclusively for this exhibition by writer Daniel Stashower, Conan Doyle’s biographer, and in this large middle section of the exhibition the booklet gets stamped by various machines, to show you have seen that section, or cut to produce a code, or you produce a rubbing for example to help solve the crime.
Past the vehicle out the front driven by Robert Downey Jnr in the Homes movies, from the foggy single streetlamp entrance to the present day finale the sprawling extremely detailed exhibition is made up of three sections in five galleries :
When we enter, through panels with illustrations taking us back in time to 19th century London, the first section looks at Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – On display are an original manuscript, letters, and illustrations through which guests will gain perspective on the experiences that influenced Conan Doyle in creating Sherlock Holmes.
There is a photo of Sir Arthur when he graduated from medical school in Edinburgh, and much mention of his various lecturers in particular Sir Joseph Bell and Sir Henry Littlejohn. There is a very rare and valuable copy of the 1887 Beeton’s Christmas Annual with the A Study In Scarlet story in it, and various editions of The Hound of the Baskervilles et al.
Mention is also made of the legendary Paget illustrations .There is also an Australian reference as mention is made of Fergus Hume’s The Mystery of a Hansom Cab ( which Sir Arthur was not at all impressed by).
There is also a fabulous extremely detailed reconstruction of the rooms at 221B and already our powers of observation are being questioned …
In the Science and History section you can try some experiments and discover the developments in science and technology in the 1890’s and how they have developed to become the forensic sciences of today.
We then become a detective – Watson or one of the Baker St irregulars perhaps – helping Holmes solve a new mystery. It is quite a ‘three pipe problem ‘and Holmes needs more data. Is Lestrade’s theory correct or does the evidence point another way?! What was ‘the worm’ the murder victim was muttering about when he died? (This is the large interactive section, where we learn about ballistics, blood splatters, poisonous plants, dragged footprints, send a telegraph by Morse code…).
Another famous Holmes case is alluded to as there are smashed busts of Napoleon that need to be reassembled if possible looking for further clues …
Once we have helped Holmes solve the mystery (did you figure it out?) the final section is the Culture of Sherlock – where you can browse through an enormous range of all things “Sherlockian,” from vintage Sherlock Holmes-themed card games, comics, magazines, radio scripts, movie and television show props and costumes…..
From William Gilette to Basil Rathbone, Jeremy Brett to Robert Downy Jnr and Benedick Cumberbatch , the movies and TV series are mentioned and there is a big section on both Sherlock and Elementary the current TV series. The global fascination with Holmes is examined and Sherlockian societies are mentioned (but alas no mention of the Sydney Passengers).
You can splurge delightfully at the shop .. Come , Watson – the game is afoot!
The Sherlock Holmes exhibition runs at the Powerhouse until October 29, 2017.