Saturday, November 30, 2013

Review: International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes

Today, we went to the International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI). I was dying to go - I started reading Sherlock Holmes stories only in the last 5 years or so, and really enjoyed them. As I read, I realized that I'd never seen Sherlock portrayed the way he is in the books: annoying, abrasive, clueless about people's feelings around him, etc. I was hooked. Right after I'd read most of the stories, the first Robert Downey, Jr.-as-Holmes movie came out - and I really liked it. Then the BBC's modernized version with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman came out - and I kinda lost my mind over how much I loved it.

So, yes, I was primed for this exhibit.

What did I think? The pros:
  • The mystery that you solve is fun!
  • The background about how Sir Arthur Conan Doyle came up with Holmes, as well as the emphasis on all of the many scientific and mechanical breakthroughs, was helpful in understanding why the stories were so popular.
  • Really glad to see Edgar Allan Poe's influence acknowledged
  • The exhibits meant to look of the period were beautiful.
  • Getting to take rubbings and figure out codes and play with morse code - that's a lot of fun. 
  • The review at the end of the exhibit, of different ways Holmes and Watson have been presented in various media and in toys, even in advertising, is good. 
The cons:
  • At times, it was really confusing on how to proceed, how to get your evidence booklet punched correctly (as opposed to incorrectly - didn't know that was possible until well into the exhibit, and getting it punched correctly is crucial), etc. - had the docents not been there to guide us (and a big thank you to those that jumped in rather than just standing there watching people flounder), we would probably have never figured it out.
  • At the beginning, there was much more to read than to see. I like reading - but I can read at home. I was expecting more short videos or more multi-media. 
  • There was not nearly as much depth as I was expecting in something like this:
    • A bit about women specifically in the stories would have been welcomed. Holmes seemed to ignore women in most stories, except for Irene Adler. Reading different theories on whom Doyle based Irene Adler, and why that character fascinated Holmes (when he ignores women in most of the other stories), would have been really interesting.
    • Sherlock Holmes was a drug user. He may have had Asperger's. The character is, at times, completely manic. I saw no reference to this whatsoever in the exhibit. These characteristics are important - they are huge parts of what made Holmes so fascinating. Why ignore them?
    • A bit on Watson's character. He was a veteran of Afghanistan - that's relevance for today. There were things Holmes did that he did not like - like the drug use. He is our window into Holmes' world. Doyle changed the location of his war wound in different stories - what are theories behind that?
    • A look at the different villains and suspects of Holmes stories. What do they say about Doyle, or about the Victorian era?
    • A look at the era's fascination with secret societies - this fascination shows up in Doyle's stories. It deserved at least a mention in the exhibit, if not a display case with info about such. 
    • I was expecting to see some clothes from that era, worn by different classes of people.
    • More about Sherlock fandom. Photos of the museum in London? Photos from fan get-togethers? Photos of Sherlock fandom in non-English-speaking countries? This has been a global phenomena for more than a century. Why?
    • Did I miss a reference to the two episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation with Data (Brent Spiner) playing Sherlock Holmes in the holodeck and Daniel Davis as Moriarty? Those two episodes regularly rank among the very favorite episodes of ST fans, and Danny's portrayal of Moriarty sets the standard, IMO (yes, I worked with him once and, therefore, I get to call him Danny and, no, he would never, ever remember me). If that wasn't there, tsk tsk. And if it was there, then it's too small, but just one tsk.
  • $18 admission is a LOT OF MONEY. I didn't get that level of money's worth. 
  • There was a "I am Sher LOCKED" t-shirt shown in the exhibit, but not available in the gift shop. OH THE HORROR. 
If you go to the exhibit:
  • Go as early in the day as possible - that will help you avoid the kids, as they just endlessly pound on buttons and push levers with no care about what's happening at all, and will just stand there, not understanding that, yes, you are there to look at what they are standing in front of. 
  • If an exhibit doesn't look interactive, amid others that are, then take some extra time to study the exhibit - there may be something you're missing, and it may take another person to show you what you may otherwise miss. 
  • Go with someone as excited as you are to see it, who won't be embarrassed by your "Squee" moments.