Sherlock Holmes: The Man Who Never Lived And Will Never Die at the Museum of London

I've mentioned before on the blog that I'm currently writing a historical crime novel, but it's a bit slow going at the moment - what with house buying and work being really busy, I've been in need of some inspiration to get back into it. So when I found out that the Museum of London had an exhibition dedicated to Sherlock Holmes - the greatest fictional detective ever written - Nick and I decided to spend part of our Easter weekend checking it out.

Upon arriving at the museum we were greeted by these figures all over the outside - they are 'dancing men', a reference to a Sherlock Holmes story of the same name where the figures are used as part of a code (a big theme of Conan Doyle's work). Sadly I have no idea what they say though...

After buying our tickets we went downstairs to the exhibition and found our way in through a secret door in an array of bookshelves - how cool is that? I loved that little touch; it was such a brilliant introduction to the exhibition and very much in keeping with the character of the Holmes stories.

Throughout the exhibition there are snippets of various on-screen portrayals of Holmes, starring everyone from Basil Rathbone and Jeremy Brett to Andrew Lincoln, Benedict Cumberbatch (more on him later) and Robert Downey Jr. I loved that as it showed both the common threads running through the various Holmes adaptation and the nuances each new version brings.

The exhibition takes you through the evolution of Holmes, from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's original inspiration for the character in Edgar Allen Poe's short story The Murders in the Rue Morgue and his tutor at medical school Dr Joseph Bell to the role of London in the stories. The latter was a huge part of it, with the exhibition dominated by images of Victorian London in between Holmes' most famous quotes. A big favourite of mine was the section on Holmes' journeys throughout London, as illustrated through maps, bits of strings and time-lapse photography - I was amazed just how much distance he covered in some of them!

I really loved that the exhibition encouraged visitors to get interactive as well, such as through finding a postcard that was linked to Sherlock Holmes, being able to see through into different parts of the exhibition (I gave a couple of people a fright looking through a window that looked out onto the entrance!) and - with the exception of a few particularly precious paintings, such as one particularly beautiful Monet of the Thames that was a riot of smoky pastel colours - being allowed to take photos. To me that engagement is hugely important in a good museum experience and this delivered in spades.

Proof that Sherlock, for all his skills, isn't perfect. The portrayal of Holmes as a well-rounded person was done really well; an exhibition like this could so easily descend into hero-worship but this included his flaws too, a testament both to Conan Doyle's writing and to the curators' sense of balance.

Yes, that is Benedict Cumberbatch's actual coat from the TV series. No, you can't touch it.

Because it wouldn't be Sherlock and Watson without a deerstalker and a bowler hat.

I love this mix of the modern and traditional Sherlock; this is Benedict Cumberbatch's dressing gown from the TV series alongside the type of chairs that were immortalised in the classic Sherlock Holmes illustrations for the original stories. Love the violin on the chair too - it's like he just popped out in the middle of practising to work on a case.

Overall, I thought this was a really interesting exhibition. Whilst it does have lots of elements for serious Sherlock fans, it's also a fascinating insight into the development of the detective novel as we know it and also offers a lot for history buffs - things like seeing the original manuscripts for the novels was amazing, as were all the images of Victorian London which really brought Holmes' world to life. Definitely worth a visit if you're keen on history and mysteries.

Sherlock Holmes: The Man Who Never Lived And Will Never Die is on at the Museum of London until 12th April, so make sure you go soon if you want to see this exhibition for yourself...


  1. I am very upset that I am going to miss this as there's only 6 days left, I meant to go at the end of last year but I might have to get the coach just so i don't miss out xxx

    1. Did you manage to make it down there? Hope so - it really was brilliant and well worth a visit!