London to host its first major Sherlock Holmes exhibition in 60 years


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The Independent Culture

Sherlock Holmes, “the most famous Londoner who never lived”, is to be reclaimed for the capital in the first major exhibition about the fictional detective for 60 years.

The Museum of London is to stage its major Sherlock Holmes exhibition this autumn, bringing material including a newly unearthed portrait of his creator and the original manuscript of the story that brought the character back from the dead.

Capitalising on the popularity of the recent BBC series Sherlock, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, which has thrilled millions of fans across the globe, the exhibition will include the protagonist’s trademark Belstaff overcoat.

Alex Werner, head of history collections at the Museum of London and lead curator of the exhibition said: “This is the moment to say he is one of London’s icons. He helps to make London what it is, a bit, and how we imagine London. We’re definitely focusing on Sherlock Holmes for that reason.”

The last major temporary exhibition about Holmes and his sidekick Dr John Watson was staged in 1951 during the Festival of Britain.

The museum will draw on its Victorian and Edwardian collection, displaying clothing and artifacts from the era, as well as bringing in loans from around the world.


One of the more intriguing loans is one of the only paintings Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was known to have sat for. A member of The Sherlock Holmes Society tipped off the curators who found it in a municipal building in a small town in Switzerland.

The work in oil was by Sidney Paget, whose illustrations in The Strand Magazines set the template for Holmes’ look, and will be displayed in Britain for the first time. “It’s a lovely link between artist and writer,” said Pat Hardy, a curator of the exhibition.

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Original page from Edgar Allan Poeís manuscript of 'The Murders in the Rue Morgue' (1841)

It is on loan from the Conan Doyle Foundation and the London museum is funding extensive conservation as it has suffered some damage. In the portrait the author is holding a notebook and the curators are currently trying to track it down.

The exhibition will include the original 1903 manuscript of The Adventure of the Empty House, that revealed Holmes had not died in the struggle with Moriarty.

The exhibition will chart the change in portrayal of Holmes from the early Paget illustrations to the early performances of William Gillette, Basil Rathbone and Jeremy Brett.

The routes through London taken by Homes and Watson in the stories will be charted through the exhibition with 19th century photography and paintings.