Curating at the Lilly: Week Four

Since the Baker Street Irregulars guest curator will be visiting soon, we moved our Six Degrees planning to the back burner and conducted a thorough search for all things Sherlockian (outside the BSI mss.; see previous post)! My co-intern and I approached the search project by dividing up a list of BSI-related people, terms, and items. I was responsible for finding material on Christopher Darlington Morley, Vincent Starrett, and any members of the Conan Doyle family as well as Sherlockian bookplates and pins. Neither of us really had any idea what, if anything, we would uncover.

My search of the Lilly’s Morley mss., Starrett mss., and Kennerley mss. (containing mostly Morley letters), for instance, did not yield much in the way of Sherlockian items, even though both Morley and Starrett were very prominent and active BSI members. Our library just happens to hold material that documents other aspects of these men’s lives. For example, our Starrett mss. collection evidences Starrett’s interest in Ambrose Bierce (particularly his mysterious disappearance!), Arthur Machen, and H. P. Lovecraft, not Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It’s likely that more of the Sherlockian side of his life ended up in the Baker Street Irregulars mss., in which case our guest curator will not have to waste time in a fruitless search of our Starrett mss.

My search was not entirely without successful finds. In our printed collection, I found several books bearing Vincent Starrett’s Sherlock Holmes bookplate. I also found a book that reprints the crossword puzzle, complete with black-shaded squares in a large “S H,” that Sherlockians originally had to solve to become members of the Baker Street Irregulars. While browsing Sherlock Holmes material in IUCAT, I came up with an idea that may assist our guest curator with one of his goals. His aim is to include 221 items in the exhibit to represent the “221” in the famous Baker Street address. While not technically impossible, it is a tall order, even for the exhibition space in our main gallery. I discovered we have a considerable number, perhaps even the whole canon of the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes plus other Sherlockian publications, in miniature. The mini books are aesthetically interesting, textually relevant, and could make it easier to reach 221 items in a smaller space.

My co-intern joked that the exhibit’s visitors will just need magnifying glasses for that part of the exhibit (if our guest curator agrees to include them). I replied that this would not necessarily be a bad thing; after all, wielding a magnifying glass is the Sherlockian way!

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