If you follow me on Twitter (@curly_kate) you will know that I have recently been involved in the Arthur and George Exhibition at Southsea Library, Portsmouth, UK. For those who haven’t already had the hard sell from me, let me brief you:
The Conan Doyle Collection (Richard Lancelyn Green Bequest) have set up an exhibition at Southsea Library on the true story of Arthur Conan Doyle’s campaign to release George Edalji from prison for horse mutilation. This famous case has been the subject of Julian Barnes’ novel Arthur and George and is about to be released as an ITV drama featuring Martin Clunes as Arthur Conan Doyle. The exhibition holds original photographs and interesting documents about the case from the collection, as well as four of the costumes from the upcoming ITV drama! It will run from Monday 23rd February to Monday 23rd March. For opening hours & location click here.
The background to this exhibition is that it is part of a wider campaign called ‘Sharing Sherlock’, established by the Doyle Collection in Portsmouth and funded by Heritage Lottery Fund, to increase local knowledge of the Doyle Collection. Of course, we also want to make the Doyle Collection an attraction for those further afield as well, but part of this project was to get local Portsmouth groups involved in curating their own exhibitions on various Doyle and Sherlock related topics to interest all ages in Portsmouth’s literary heritage and show off Richard’s amazing collection. So far in 2014-15 we have held 12 exhibitions in various locations like the John Pound Centre, Portsmouth or the Central Library, Portsmouth; they have been on subjects such as Doyle’s involvement in sport, as well as PASN’s ‘Lost World’ exhibit (that I blogged about here).
The Arthur and George exhibition has been organised by the volunteers at the Doyle Collection and was sparked by the large collection of newspaper cuttings, books, etc. that Richard collected on the subject. The case was a huge media sensation (Doyle made sure of that) and it was due to the media that Edalji’s case was reopened – this was before the days of court appeal and it was spectacularly difficult to get cases reopened, let alone overturned; but Edalji had appealed to Doyle instead and following the death of Doyle’s first wife, Touie (Louise Doyle nee Hawkins), Doyle was in need of a cause to help him out of his mourning. Edalji provided such a relief. Doyle met with Edalji and realised immediately Edalji’s innocence: Edalji had myopia and was very short-sighted; the mutilations of horses had happened at night and Edalji’s sight prevented him from being able to walk around easily in poor light, let alone execute the precision cuts the cattle presented with. Doyle therefore took up the case and caused such a media stir that the government were forced to reopen the case. It is a fascinating example of Doyle’s love of social campaigning and was not the only case he forced to be reopened: there was also the case of Oscar Slater, a man wrongly convicted of robbing and murdering a woman.
The organising of this exhibition has been amazing fun. I have been involved in the process from the beginning and though I have not curated the exhibition myself, it has been incredible to see it take shape: from choosing the venue to the curation of the objects; the depth of research gone into the project was far more than could be demonstrated, but has resulted in a fantastic exhibition. The addition of the ITV costumes was the cherry on the cake – Buffalo Pictures (the producers of Arthur and George the series) were so helpful and we are very grateful for the loan. We hold the costumes for the characters of Doyle (Martin Clunes); Jean Leckie (Hattie Morahan – The Bletchley Circle, Outnumbered, Eternal Law, Sense and Sensibility); George Edalji (Arsher Ali – Four Lions, Complicit, The Guilty, The Missing), and Alfred ‘Woodie’ Wood (Charles Edwards – Downton Abbey, Trying Again, A Young Doctor’s Notebook). The costumes were designed by Les Lansdown and were provided by Angel Costumiers.
It took two days of hard work to set up the exhibition, involving library staff, volunteers, and Laura Weston – Education and Learning Officer for the Conan Doyle Collection. Here are some photographs of the installing, which show off how much work was accomplished in such a short time. If you want more updates on the exhibition and other events by the Conan Doyle Collection, Portsmouth you can join the Facebook group.