With only one week to go until our Sherlock Holmes exhibition opens to the public, we wanted to take a closer inspection at our trailer to reveal a few hidden clues as to what visitors might expect… you saw, but did you observe?
0.02: Did you spot this image from an 1872 John Anderson painting of Westminster Bridge, Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey seen from the River?
Completed in 1870, the Houses of Parliament instantly became an iconic landmark which is now recognised around the world. Although Conan Doyle himself only lived in London for a short while before moving out to the suburbs, Sherlock has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the capital – ‘he muttered the names as the cab rattled through squares and in and out by tortuous by-streets’ (The Sign of Four).
0.03 Did you see the phrenology head?
Now discredited as pseudo-sciences, the belief that looks reflected personality took the form of phrenology and anthropometry in the 19th century. With his slim nose, tall forehead and piercing eyes, Holmes’ determination and powers of observation are revealed. In The Hound of the Baskervilles Holmes’s skull surprises Dr Mortimer who remarks, ‘I had hardly expected so dolichocephalic a skull or such well-marked supra-orbital development’.
0.13/0.27: Did you spot the pipe or the syringe?
In the 1880s cocaine and morphine were unregulated and Holmes’s recreational use would have been seen as bohemian rather than illegal. A somewhat unconventional character, he keeps odd hours, plays his violin through the night and smokes a pipe before breakfast. His ‘old and oily clay pipe… was to him as a counsellor’ (‘A Case of Identity’) and he measures a problem’s complexity by the number of pipes needed to be smoked. Watson calls him a ‘self-poisoner by cocaine and tobacco’ (‘The Five Orange Pips’).
0.22: Did you see the ‘Dancing Men’?
Holmes is a code-breaker and delights in cracking complicated cyphers. Puzzles, mysteries and cryptograms are his stimulant. But once a crime is solved, he craves more. In an age awash with written information, codes – so often short and compact – found their way into newspaper advertisements, telegraph messages and even books.
Code-breaker? The Dancing Men have jumped from the page and onto the walls of our rotunda – you can see them now outside the Museum of London. Think you’ve cracked the code? Tweet us @museumoflondon!
Sherlock Holmes: The Man Who Never Lived and Will Never Die is at the Museum of London until 12 April. Tickets are on sale now!