Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Trip Report - International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes in Columbus, OH

Our Visit to the International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes in Columbus, OH
By Al Calderini, AMS

At May’s meeting I sat at a table with Brad Schwartz and his father and they told me about their visit to the International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes at the Columbus, Ohio COSI (Center of Science and Industry) and how much they enjoyed it.  I was also intrigued by Rob Musial’s message regarding same.  So, my wife, my 22 year old son (who is also a great fan of Holmes) and I made the 180 mile, 3.5 or so hour ride to the Columbus area (we stayed in Dublin).  While traveling both ways we listened to some BBC Sherlock Holmes radio programs with Clive Merrison and Michael Williams and some Rathbone/Bruce programs (including, by accident, “The Adventure of the Amateur Mendicant Society”).

The exhibit (which covers some 10,000 square feet according to publicity) and runs to 9/1/14 is made up of 5 sections.  The first one covers the origins of Doyle and the stories.  Among the highlights are two original manuscript pages from the Hound consisting of the beginning of Watson’s second report from Baskerville Hall and the portion immediately following Selden’s death, where he is mistaken for Sir Henry based on the clothes he’s wearing.  There is also a wonderful painting of Dr. Bell is his later years.  He bears a striking resemblance to Sir Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington in the famous painting by Sir Thomas Lawrence.   So much so that it is a known fact the Duke appreciated a well-turned ankle and, while he would have been 63 when Dr.  Bell was born, who knows …… but I digress.  There is also the short video featuring Doyle himself speaking about Holmes, which was in the theatres when the 1939 Hound was re-released in the 1970’s.  Another high point is a copy of the Beaton’s Christmas Annual with A Study in Scarlet, though it is in such excellent shape that I have my doubts it’s an original.

The second section basically notes the technology of various aspects of the London of Holmes’ time and is made to suggest the walls and tunnels of the Underground.   Exhibits on the London Police (including a pair of darbys), the Underground, chemistry & cosmetics, cameras, the art of bullet trajectory, and the telegraph are among subjects addressed in this section.

The third section is probably the best of all as it is a re-creation of the sitting room at Baker Street.  You can actually walk about the room with only small portions being roped off.  On display are such familiar objects as the coal scuttle/cigar holder, penknife/letters/mantel piece, Persian slipper, violin, lab table, etc.  There are also a couple of more outré’ items;  the harpoon used for the experiment in Black Peter and Miss Cushing’s ears residing in their Cardboard Box.  This room is the beginning of the case in which Holmes requires our assistance.  His voice explains the case via a cylinder gramophone recording.  The case involves the apparent murder by a man of his wife and daughter and his attempted suicide after the fact, at least according to Lestrade.

Section four consists of testing/examining the evidence regarding the crime (we are given a “case book” at the very beginning of the exhibit).  You will use devices to imitate a body being dragged, making multiple footprints, and making blood splatters amongst others.  Based on these tests/examinations you either correctly  solve the case (I did) or you do not (my son and wife didn’t—but they don’t attend our meetings).

The final section is mostly Holmes collectables of all sorts and movie/tv memorabilia.  There are items from both the Robert Downey movies (including Lord Blackmore’s coffin), “Sherlock”, and “Elementary”.  There are also a half dozen or so 2 minute videos addressing modern scientific methods of criminal investigation.

By the by, it worked out that we visited the exhibit on June 13th, which was Basil Rathbone’s 122nd birthday.  Needless to say, I wore my lucky Rathbone as Holmes t-shirt.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable experience—if you can’t make it to London’s Holmes Museum in Baker Street or the Sherlock Holmes Pub, this is a reasonable substitute.  We spent over 2 hours going through it and we read probably 80% of the exhibit signs.  You cannot take any sort of photos/videos in the exhibit, but you can buy an illustrated guidebook at the end (for $15.00).  Like all these type exhibits, it ends at a rather pricey gift/souvenir shop.


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