Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sherlock Holmes in Minnesota

Anyone searching for clues about the enduring popularity of Sherlock Holmes need not look only to his headquarters on London's Baker Street. Deep in an underground cavern at the University of Minnesota lies the world's largest collection of Holmes memorabilia. To many, it's a mystery how this trove of tens of thousands of books, toys, games, posters and recordings - from copies of the Holmes stories owned by the last empress of Russia to an original manuscript page of "The Hound of the Baskervilles" - ended up at a Midwestern university, half a world away from the foggy London streets of Holmes and his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The answer is elementary, according to Tim Johnson, curator of special collections and rare books at the University of Minnesota Libraries: A "happy series of accidents" involving a retired university librarian, a Nobel Prize laureate and a Holmes fan who took a "vacuum cleaner" approach to collecting.

"People think the Holmes collection ought to be in London. So it's 'why Minnesota?' And it's really just this series of happy events that occurred over time," Johnson said.

The Holmes collection in Minnesota has between 15,000 and 16,000 volumes, and other pieces bring the archive to 60,000 or more, Johnson said. They are kept in a cavern, fitted out for storage, about 85 feet below ground at the Elmer L. Andersen Library, where temperatures and humidity are controlled.

On metal shelves sit memorabilia including magnifying glasses, an ice cream carton with a cartoon cow wearing Holmes' iconic deerstalker cap and a pillow with an image of Sherlock Hemlock, a Muppet character from "Sesame Street."

Los Angeles attorney Les Klinger, who wrote The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes (3 volumes) has donated his papers to the university's collection. Other major Holmes or Doyle archives are at Harvard University, the Toronto Public Library and Portsmouth, England.

But Klinger calls Minnesota's collection the "first stop for anybody doing research, because if you're looking for something, it's probably in the collection."

Read the entire story HERE.

Hat Tip: Jeff Meyerson

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