Tulsa University’s Special Collections, perhaps one of the campus’ more obscure departments, will soon be closing its current exhibit, “A Study in Sherlock.” The collection, if the name didn’t give it away, showcases the cultural influence of Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic private detective. The theme of this particular exhibit was chosen by Special Collections’ three graduate assistants: Hannah Johnson, Joey Petross and Abhinaya Rangarajan, each of whom consider themselves fans of the character. The majority of the displayed items were donated to Special Collections by two separate collectors, Stafford Davis and Jack Powell, with Marc Carlson providing some pieces to “fill in the gaps.”
“A Study in Sherlock” means to convey the impressive scope of the fictional detective’s influence through a series of displays, split into 5 distinct sections. The first of these sections, Background Inspiration, explains the inherent connection between Arthur C. Doyle’s personal experiences and their contribution to his literary work. A few of the featured books, such as “The Real World of Sherlock Holmes” and “The London of Sherlock Holmes” emphasize the environment and society of the esteemed author, which would inevitably become the literary world of his novels. Likewise, the “Medical Casebook of Arthur C. Doyle” explores his career in medicine, which had a strong influence on the nature of Sherlock’s cases.
The second section is labeled Adaptations and Academia. Sherlock’s stories, as the exhibit elaborates, exist today in approximately 60 languages. The character himself has been portrayed by upwards of 70 actors, notably John Barrymore, Peter O’Toole and, more recently, Robert Downey Jr. and Ian McKellen. Besides this are innumerable radio show adaptations, musical accompaniments and academic analyses ranging from that of Sherlock’s world to the man’s very own indecipherable psychology. Maybe the most interesting of this section, besides “Sherlock Hound,” an animated and animalized depiction of the detective, was the information that Sherlockian experts have created detailed maps of his adventures using coins and stamps.
The third section addresses Sherlock’s pastiche, which the exhibit is kind enough to explicitly define as “an artistic work in a style that imitates that of another work, artist, or period.” These pieces, which often appeared in books, magazines and other outlets, “can be grouped into four categories: new Sherlock Holmes stories, stories in which Holmes appears in a cameo role; stories about imagined descendants of sherlock Holmes; and stories inspired by Sherlock Holmes but which do not include Holmes himself.” Amongst these featured works, some of which are dated as early as the late 19th century, is a collection of novellas featuring the protagonist Solar Pons — “Lo∫Ωndon’s most redoubtable hero since Sherlock Holmes,” if the covers are to be believed. Besides this are an adaptation of Sherlock for theatre and two romantic approaches to the character, “Sherlock in Love” and “Good Night, Mr. Holmes.”
In the next display case are works of parody, many of which were written simultaneous to the detective’s original literary adventures. “Sherlockian parody,” the feature reads, “can be found in cartoons, short stories, novels, and film. Sometimes the parodies twist the names and stories into hilarious bumbling detective adventures, such as Picklock Holes or Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother.” Also on display were “The Old Age of Holmes,” which satirizes the detectives’ work as “sleight of hand and parlor magic tricks,” which nevertheless amazes Dr. Watson, and the incredibly confusing piece of “Sherlock Holmes, the Golfer,” which is apparently meant to offer golfing advice.
Closing out the exhibit is a display of memorabilia. Unsurprisingly, Sherlock’s name is one so often associated with mystery and problem-solving, that there are a number of quiz-books and crossword puzzles which feature his identity. For the die-hard Sherlockian fan seeking to test their knowledge on the topic there are trivia books which offer the means to do so. The Consulting Detective Board Game offers players the chance to solve a mystery of their own in true detective-like fashion.
Overall, the exhibit was quaint and yet, informative. The items featured within are novel and often surprising. Students with a special interest in Sherlock, literature or vintage items in general are encouraged to see the (free) exhibit in Special Collections, located on the fifth floor of McFarlin Library, before it closes. The next exhibit, organized by Milissa Burkart, will be open to the public April 1. While the department doesn’t wish to completely elaborate on the feature, they did explain that it will “show a fascinating connection between the Vietnam War and out-of-body experiences.”