Sherlock Holmes: Man of mystery, or not? Timothy Long, the curator of the exhibition "Sherlock Holmes: The Man Who Never Lived and Will Never Die", poses with a deerstalker hat and a smoking pipe at the Museum of London (Reuters / ThinkStock)
Sherlock Holmes: Man of mystery, or not?

Sherlock Holmes is among the most famous Londoners of all time. Many tourists still see the bustling city through his adventures, and seek out his address, 221B Baker Street.

It seems a logical deduction that the fictional detective's creator, Arthur Conan Doyle, must have known the city well.

In fact, historian David Cannadine said Conan Doyle didn't spend that much time in London and learned much from a street atlas.

That is just one of the surprises provided by a Museum of London exhibition. It explores Holmes, a character who has been endlessly adapted. He's a cerebral sleuth, a forensic scientist and an archetypal Englishman.

Through film clips, costumes, 19th-century forensic equipment and more, the museum follows Holmes. It starts with an idea in Conan Doyle's notebook at one point he was called Sherrinford Holmes to the smartphone-toting modern detective played by Benedict Cumberbatch in the BBC TV series "Sherlock."

The exhibition also looks at the relationship between the detective and London. The city, during Victorian times a little over a century ago, is a place of horse-drawn hansom cabs, dark corners, gaslight and fog.

Fog gets a whole room of its own in the museum exhibition. It's lined with atmospheric images by American photographer Alvin Langdon Coburn and other artworks, including a painting of London's River Thames by French Impressionist Claude Monet.

Cannadine, who has contributed to a book that accompanies the exhibition, said Conan Doyle's stories give a sense of the city that is vivid but in some ways misleading.

"He doesn't write about the traffic jams, he doesn't write about the smell of horse-droppings, he doesn't write about the filth of the pavements," Cannadine said. "It's a much cozier image, in a way."

For fans, the most exciting exhibit may be a yellowing notebook showing the moment Holmes was created. It bears notes for a detective story in Conan Doyle's handwriting. The author has crossed out his original title, "A Tangled Skein" and written "A Study in Scarlet." It's the name under which Holmes' first adventure was published in 1887.

Conan Doyle, who died in 1930, probably didn't imagine that his creation would long outlive him. He tried to kill off Holmes in 1893, sending him tumbling over the Reichenbach Falls while grappling with archenemy Moriarty.

Readers were outraged. So the author resurrected the sleuth a decade later.

The exhibition's lead curator, Alex Werner, said Holmes endures because he was strikingly modern.

"This was a character who was using scientific methods to unmask the incredible complexity of the modern world," Werner said. "He's the only one who can do it. We would all like to be Sherlock Holmes."

"Sherlock Holmes: The Man Who Never Lived and Will Never Die" is at the Museum of London from Friday until April 12.

Critical thinking challenge: What does this mean: The Man Who Never Lived and Will Never Die. How can that be?

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  • JohnL-4
    10/23/2014 - 01:02 a.m.

    More and more is being discovered about the Sherlock Holmes series each day. Apparently, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had never spent lots of time in London, and just studied it from an Atlas point of view. Museums are always following the story of Sherlock, no matter how much time passes. At one point, Sherlock was killed of with his enemy, Moriarty, but was later resurrected. There is now a Sherlock Holmes exhibit in the Museum of London until April 12th.

  • TR2001golden
    10/23/2014 - 08:42 a.m.

    I think the answer to the critical question is that he is a legend and his legend will never die. That is what I think the answer to the critical question is.

  • jadenmc-Sch
    10/23/2014 - 10:58 a.m.

    It was a good story and i know a lot about sherlock holmes because i read his stuff and i liked the story because it has science and stuff in it.

  • michaelhi-Sch
    10/23/2014 - 11:00 a.m.

    herlock homes was famous for painting i think he are i really good he started using a smart phone in 2012 he is a really good painter.

  • sethst-Sch
    10/23/2014 - 11:02 a.m.

    I like this story it is very interesting. this would be a good book for other people to read if they come to this web site.

  • karterh-Sch
    10/23/2014 - 11:05 a.m.

    I think that there could be a little more detail but it was pretty good it is way different from the movie i like the movie more thow.

  • coadyc-Sch
    10/23/2014 - 01:54 p.m.

    I knew that Sherlock Holmes was fictitious, but did not know there was some truth about locations and stories. I thought the movie was really good, but England has a lot of people, especially London, and I wouldn't visit there just for that.

  • devinhe-Sch
    10/23/2014 - 02:01 p.m.

    I like Sherlock Holmes and he is an o.k person in the story m,fv mf ff f f b bgv v fv vv gfv fvc fvd

  • caitlynh-Sch
    10/23/2014 - 02:02 p.m.

    that is one really huge stinkin cow how in the world did they get that cow so big i mean even the hulk wouldnt be able to do that to a cow

  • IamXfactor
    10/23/2014 - 02:15 p.m.

    Sherlock Holmes is one of the most awesome human fictional characters I have known. I think that he stands out from the rest just because of the fact that he is human but knows more than other people. And the fact that intrigues me most is that he uses his "superpower" for helping other people.