Exhibitions and Cultural Policy: The Case of Sherlock Holmes
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Winchester
Unit of AssessmentCommunication, Cultural and Media Studies, Library and Information Management
Summary Impact TypeCultural
Research Subject Area(s)
Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies, Literary Studies
Summary of the impact
Dr Neil McCaw's research has had a cultural, educational, and policy
impact on individuals, groups of individuals, and organisations in the UK
and countries overseas. His work on the development of The Arthur Conan
Doyle Collection, Lancelyn Green Bequest (the largest collection of Conan
Doyle and Sherlock Holmes memorabilia in the world, of which he was
appointed Academic Director in 2005) and detective and crime culture more
widely has underpinned the following: a worldwide series of interlinked
museum exhibitions visited to date by more than 350,000 citizens; a
variety of connected educational projects involving school-age pupils of
different nations; and regional public policy and heritage development
work with a UK local authority that has informed tourism and cultural
strategy. McCaw's research engages with communities, audiences and users
far beyond academia through highly interactive media, written text, public
exhibitions and televised airings of his expertise, all disseminated from
its institutional, and regional, base in the UK to Germany, France, the
USA, and Japan.
The research focus of McCaw's work is the cultural influence,
significance and literary effects of the work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
and crime and detective fiction generally, growing out of his role as
Academic Director of The Arthur Conan Doyle Collection. The collection is
the previously un-accessed life's work of Richard Lancelyn Green (who died
in 2004), the leading world authority on Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes.
This research initially involved assisting with the organisation and
cataloguing in excess of 60,000 unlisted, unarranged items in a way that
accessibly told the story of the material's collector, the life of Conan
Doyle, and the development of the popular fascination with detective and
crime fiction in the different countries of the world since the nineteenth
century. The new knowledge and awareness drawn from this emerging archive
(no academic scholar had previously seen any of the material) then became
a key part of the development of a series of linked research outputs
authored by McCaw. These include a monograph concerned with the cultural
adaptation and appropriation of crime and detective fiction and its
socio-political consequences in the late twentieth century Adapting
Detective Fiction: Crime, Englishness and the TV Detectives (2010);
a book chapter which pursues the political vein of adaptation and the
jurisdiction of textual modification and its effects, 'Sherlock Holmes and
a Politics of Adaptation' which appeared in The Afterlives of Arthur
Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes (2012)), and the `Introduction' to a
new non-academic Complete Works of Arthur Conan Doyle.
All of this research, which has underpinned McCaw's related activities
increasing the profile and public awareness of the Conan Doyle Collection
through media work, educational projects, policy development, and a series
of museum exhibitions, has been undertaken in his capacity as Reader in
Literature and Culture at the University of Winchester.
References to the research
1. McCaw, N., Adapting Detective Fiction: Crime, Englishness and the
TV Detectives (Continuum, 2010).
2. McCaw, N., 'Sherlock Holmes and a Politics of Adaptation' in Wynne, C.
and Vanacker, S., (eds), The Afterlives of Arthur Conan Doyle and
Sherlock Holmes (Palgrave, 2012) pp. 36-48.
3. McCaw, N., 'Introduction' (pp. vii-xviii) to The Complete Works of
Arthur Conan Doyle in 56 Volumes (Cambridge Scholars Press, 2009).
4. The Case of the Portsmouth Doctor, Portsmouth City Museum
Different incarnations of this exhibition (with their own local nuances
and display elements) have travelled within the UK, as well as to France,
Germany, and Japan (2006-).
5. A Study in Sherlock, Portsmouth City Museum (2008-)
Details of the impact
McCaw's research has enlightened and empowered the general public and
academic audiences both in the UK and overseas with insights into
newly-discovered aspects of their cultural heritage and literary knowledge
related to the life of the British cultural and literary icon Sir Arthur
Conan Doyle and the role of detective and crime genre as part of
literature and culture more generally from the nineteenth century to the
present day. In particular his work has significantly enhanced the
understanding and appreciation of the longstanding international
fascination with Sherlock Holmes as a global icon and how this articulates
and intersects with various national and ethnic identities.
McCaw's research has been disseminated to the general public as well as
to more academic/research audiences through introductions to popular
books, journal articles, television appearances, curated interactive
museum exhibitions, education projects, and cultural policy developments
and initiatives. The early stages of the published research underpinned
the initial The Case of the Portsmouth Doctor exhibition at
Portsmouth Central Museum, which first introduced items from the Conan
Doyle Collection to the wider world and sought to inform and ignite
general interest in the works, life, and subsequent impact of Conan
Doyle's cultural contribution. This display was then successively and
independently commissioned by regional governmental bodies in Caen, France
(2006), Maizuru, Japan (2008), and Duisburg, Germany (2010) — the latter
as part of the European Capitals of Culture programme of the Ruhr. On each
occasion the display was tailored to meet the particular cultural and
linguistic character of the nations involved. In total to date this
exhibition has been visited by well over 100,000 visitors in the UK and
overseas, and been reviewed in the national media of each of these
McCaw's second exhibition, A Study in Sherlock, has been
in situ in Portsmouth's City Museum from 2008 to the present, and been
updated on a regular basis as new Collection finds have been uncovered.
This award-winning exhibition has an interactive aspect designed to engage
with a wide range of visitors and audiences (users), exemplified by the
exhibition's narration by Stephen Fry (the Collection's patron).
Supporting materials written by McCaw include text/display panels, the
audio narration which he recorded with Fry, a new Sherlock Holmes
educational script performed by local amateur actors and produced as a
film specifically for the exhibition, as well as an accompanying book: A
Study in Sherlock: Uncovering the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection. A Study
in Sherlock is a monument to the life of the collector of the
archival material featured in it, as well as to Conan Doyle's life in the
city of Portsmouth, Hampshire's literary heritage, and the phenomenon of
Sherlock Holmes in the UK and abroad. It has raised the profile of each of
these features on both the national and international stage and has been
visited by more than 250,000 visitors to date.
McCaw has acted as spokesperson for the Conan Doyle Collection overseas,
and been an invited public speaker in each of the countries the
exhibitions have visited, as well as at the University of Minnesota
(2010), where he participated in meetings with the curators of all the
other major world Conan Doyle/Sherlock Holmes collections (Minnesota,
Chicago, and Toronto), to discuss how these cultural resources (alongisde
the Portsmouth Collection) could be integrated and made more accessible to
researchers (of all levels) globally.
The reach of McCaw's research impact is evidenced by visitor attendance
figures to his exhibitions. The Case of the Portsmouth Doctor: c.
856 visitors at the Hotel de Ville, Caen (France, 2008); c. 12,636,
Maizuru Museum (Japan, 2008); c. 1,503, Meridian Centre (Havant UK, 2009);
c. 96,542 Duisberg Central Library (Germany, 2010). A Study in
Sherlock: c. 70,186 (2008-9); 64,533 (2009-10); c. 97,195 (2010-11);
c. 55,459 (2011-12).
The significance of McCaw's impact is evidenced by the high exhibition
attendance figures and the resulting widepread recognition of his research
and its effectiveness in disseminating the Conan Doyle/Sherlock Holmes
legacy. A Study in Sherlock was awarded a media prize for `Best
Exhibition' in 2009, a category voted for by the public, and was reviewed
in numerous media, notably The Independent (2008) and the Mail
Online (2009). McCaw's exhibitions also created a surge of interest
from television broadcasters. He was featured in The History Channel/STV
TV documentary 'In Search of Sherlock' (2010) in which he discussed
aspects of the Sherlock Holmes phenomenon (reviewed in Pop Matters
in 2010), as well as in news items on BBC TV and ITV on four occasions,
and also in an episode of 'Flog It!', a popular TV programme syndicated
around the world and watched by millions of viewers, in which he was the
resident expert on Sherlock Holmes and Conan Doyle.
The significance of the research impact is also evident in a programme of
educational events and projects for schools in the southern region
(UK) linked to McCaw's work on Conan Doyle. He has delivered interactive
talks to children ranging from 5-16, and been part of an EU-funded Interreg
project wherein The Case of the Portsmouth Doctor exhibition
formed a central part of an exchange visit between pupils from the UK and
France within which they took part in detective-themed literacy and
numeracy tasks in both their own country and that of their `foreign'
McCaw's research is also central to his close working with the Cultural
Services department of Portsmouth City Council in relation to the
strategic policy development of the Conan Doyle Collection, as well as
related cultural and educational policy developments in the region. This
has had manifest outcomes in terms of affecting the direction of local
cultural strategy and provision, as well as contributing to an influx of
visitors to the area (and Portsmouth specifically) from countries with a
major interest in Sherlock Holmes as far afield as the US, Japan,
Australia, numerous countries within Europe and, more recently, Israel.
This has had an unarguably positive impact on the local economy and
Sources to corroborate the impact
Portsmouth City Council. A Report to the Executive Member for
Culture and Leisure. 9 November 2006. www.portsmouth.gov.uk/media/cl20061109r3.pdf
`There was a Gala opening to the exhibition attended by Richard Lancelyn
Green's mother and brother, the Executive Member for Leisure and
Culture, VIP guests, Dr Neil McCaw, and also John Guy-Hawthorne from the
Museums and Records Society who presented a cheque for £6,000 to go
towards the cataloguing of the Collection.
Work is currently ongoing to evaluate the effectives of the exhibition
in relation to its original aims. This will provide key information for
the shape and design of the more substantial exhibition currently being
developed for the summer 2007 to open the Portsmouth Festivities'.
Portsmouth City Council. Leader's Portfolio Decision Meeting.
11 March 2008.
Portsmouth City Council. The Arthur Conan Doyle, Lancelyn Green
Bequest 2009 Achievements. www.portsmouth.gov.uk/media/cl20101021r5.pdf
`Receipts: One of 33 original surviving Conan Doyle manuscripts `The
Adventure of the Creeping Man' and its display in `The Study in
Sherlock' exhibition at the City Museum. Receipt of a very large
portrait of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle from the estate of his daughter Dame
Jean Conan Doyle...Exhibitions: Support and delivery of `The Case of the
Portsmouth Doctor' at Havant Meridian Centre as part of the Havant
Literary Festival. Adaptations to `The Study In Sherlock` exhibition at
the City Museum to include the winning short `Hound of the Baskervilles'
animation from the competition run by the 2nd year animation
students at the University of Portsmouth and a new display of material
relating to The Hound of the Baskervilles.'
The Arthur Conan Doyle Collection, Lancelyn Green Bequest. `The
Collection in Japan.' Spring/Summer 2008 Newsletter.
The Arthur Conan Doyle Collection, Lancelyn Green Bequest. `A
Study in Sherlock:
Uncovering the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection.'
The News. `READERS VOTED..Nominated and voted for by
readers of The News. Best Exhibition Winner: A Study in
Sherlock (Portsmouth City Museum).'
We asked our readers to nominate their favourite for the 15 vote-led
categories and then held a further vote to choose the top six in the
running for each title. Our panel of experts then deliberated over the
results of the poll to decide a winner and runner-up. All shortlisted
nominees were invited to the ceremony when the results were made public
for the first time.
The Independent. 17 May 2008.
Mail Online. 13 September 2009. www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/article-1211502/Six-things--Portsmouth.html
Pop Matters.`The Search for Sherlock Holmes'. 18
Letter from Head of Cultural Services, Portsmouth City Council.
2 May 2012.