Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Archives, Libraries and Popular Culture

This is partly a "working post" for a class I'm teaching next week for adult learners. The first session is "Pop Culture in Archives and Special Collections." I want to play a few clips of how archives and special collection libraries (or libraries in general) are portrayed in the movies and television. So I'm using this as my clipboard to paste down a few links.

From "Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" (2001). Gandalf reads Isildur's account of the ring of power. (1:04)

From "The Name of the Rose" (1986). Brother William of Baskerville discovers "one of the greatest libraries in all Christendom." (9:40)

From "The Name of the Rose" (1986). The scriptorium. (2:53)

From "Star Wars: Attack of the Clones" (2002). Chief Librarian of the Jedi Archives, Jacasta Nu, assists Obi Wan Kenobi with his research. (1:06)

Mr. Bean at the Library (1990). Mr. Bean works on a rare manuscript. (9:13)

From "The Music Man" (1962) --Marian the Librarian. (7:43)

From "All The President's Men" (1976). Woodward and Bernstein pay a visit to the Library of Congress. (1:31)

From "Angels and Demons" (2009). Symbologist Robert Langdon tracks a mystery in the Vatican Archives. (0:56)

From "Angels and Demons" (2009). Breaking out of the Vatican Archive. (1:14)

From "Ghostbusters" (1984). Psychic researchers encounter a library ghost. (1:27)

From "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" (2009). A scene from Hogwarts library. (0:53)

From "Desk Set" (1957). Librarians in the reference department of a television network. (1:12)

"The Librarian: Quest for the Spear" (2004). Interviewing for the position of librarian. (2:36)

Holmes, Studio 360, Fox 9, and The Movie

The Holmes media blitz continues. And we couldn't be happier. The various reports have brought some great attention to the Holmes Collections. In the process, we've been able to introduce a few more folks to the world of Holmes (and gather in a few new supporting Friends in the process).

The latest reports took place last Sunday and Monday. On Sunday night the public radio program "Studio 360" took a look at the world of Holmes. If you missed the broadcast check out this link to hear the program. The blurb for my segment in the story reads "Where would you expect to find the world's largest Sherlock Holmes archive? Try nine stories below Minneapolis, in the rare book collection at the University of Minnesota. Sarah Lemanczyk descends for a visit." I had a great time with Sarah. She was actually the first reporter on the scene to cover the Collections in anticipation of the new movie release (more on that shortly). I was curious how she was going to use some of the effects we recorded (e.g. doors opening, foots going down steps, etc.) She did a great job. I have to admit that I'd forgotten that I told her the State Fair story, but so it goes. We had fun. I enjoyed the other pieces in the Holmes spread as well, especially the chance to hear from Susan Rice, Les Klinger, and David Stuart Davies.

On Monday morning I was a guest on the Fox 9 morning news program. I don't have a link to a clip as yet, but I'm hoping that the station will put one up soon. I'll let you know. Alix Kendall did a nice job with the interview, giving me a chance to show a few things from the collections. I was hesitant to bring any rare objects with me so stuck to some safer choices and duplicate items. The special moment for me was having Alix put on the deerstalker cap that once belonged to John Bennett Shaw. She looked very good with it on, but I think it might have flustered her a wee bit. It was one of those spur of the moment things that happens during an interview. I was talking about the cap, held it up and thought. . . I wonder if she'd mind. She was great! I didn't head into work that day (taking advantage of having the kids home from school), but apparently the phones were ringing off the hooks about seeing Sherlock at the U.

As for the movie. . . I really enjoyed it. I went the morning after Christmas with my daughter. We caught an early show (11 am) at the mall and didn't have to fight for seats. (It was a much different case by the time we emerged from the theater. By then the place was packed with post-holiday shoppers and there was a line for the next showing.) I generally rate movies by how many times I look at my watch. I didn't check the time once during "Sherlock Holmes." I thought it was a fun movie and, contrary to some of my more traditional Holmesians, thought the action was OK. I especially enjoyed Jude Law's portrayal of Watson. Law gave us a well-developed character, in many ways an equal of Holmes, with excellent banter between the two. It was not hard to believe that this man had seen military action or had the skills of a doctor. I also enjoyed the setting. This was a grimy, gritty London and one that had a richness and depth, almost another character in the movie. My complaint was with the use of Mary Morstan, the only real canonical glitch to my eyes. In the original stories Holmes would have known Mary from "The Sign of Four," but in the movie its as if they've just met. I don't know why this was done, but it detracted slightly from my enjoyment. I was pleased at how the physical and mental Holmes came together, as I was with how all of Holmes reasoning was tied together. And there was the set-up for a sequel. Will it indeed be Brad Pitt who plays Moriarty? I gave the movie two thumbs up, or 4 out of 5 stars. And I'm going to see it again (and get it on DVD).

There is one curious matter about the movie: Robert Downey Jr. received a Golden Globe nomination for best actor in a musical or comedy. "Sherlock Holmes" to my mind is neither a musical nor a comedy. So I'm not sure why his performance and nomination was shoe-horned into this particular category. But I'm glad he was nominated.

I may or may not get another post in before the New Year, but in case I don't--best wishes for the coming year!

Monday, December 21, 2009

More Holmes in the Star Trib

Kudos to the Star Tribune for the great coverage of the Holmes Collections. The newspaper ran Jeff Baenen's AP story again over the weekend with front page coverage, above the fold, in the "Variety" section. My daughter started getting texts and FB comments from friends on Saturday morning about her "cool" dad in the paper and my son texted me mid-morning to say that the picture of me with Raggedy Ann and Andy (as Holmes and Watson) was "huge." So there were a lot of happy faces in the Johnson household on Saturday.

The jollity continued at a party Saturday night, causing me to run out and buy a few more papers. (By this time the "early Sunday" edition was out, and the "Variety" section was still there in all its glory.) I had a bit of fun at the Cub store in Apple Valley, where I picked up six more copies of the paper. The clerk told a friend and I that we were "insane" (either for buying multiple copies of the paper or for our dress--it was a PJ party and I was in sweats and a hoodie; my friend had been sporting a robe). After paying for the papers I looked back at the clerk and asked "aren't you curious as to why we're buying so many copies of the paper?" While asking the question, I pulled out the Variety section and held it next to my face. The woman behind me in line exclaimed "my God, its him!" So we had a nice laugh. The clerk then asked if I'd give her a signed copy, but I was already headed for the door.

It was great coverage for the Collections, but it struck me more than once during the weekend that none of this would be possible without the work of many of my colleagues, the ongoing support of the University and our Friends, and the many Friends and donors who have helped build this collection. It was (a continues to be) a humbling reminder of the importance of our collective work and what it means to be a steward of these materials for future generations.

So, in the spirit of the season, and echoing the words of my Dickensian namesake, "God Bless Us, Every One!" Best wishes for the Holiday season!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Holmes at the University of Minnesota

We have a great relationship with the Libraries Communication office and the University Relations office. U Relations just posted two video stories about the Holmes Collections. The first piece gives you a nice overview and features appearances by Professor Gordon Hirsch from the English department and Dick Sveum, president of the Friends of the Sherlock Holmes Collections.

The second piece focuses on a few of the treasures from the Collections, notably the Beeton's Christmas Annual and a manuscript leaf from the Hound of the Baskervilles.

My sincere thanks to the folks from University Relations--Drew Swain, Ryan Mathre and Liz Giorgi--for all their help in promoting the Sherlock Holmes Collections at the University. And my thanks as well to Professor Hirsch, Dick Sveum and Marlo Welshons from the Libraries Communication office. We had a lot of fun with the interviews! I hope you enjoy them!

Follow-up on Holmes Story in the Strib

I found it interesting that the Star Tribune decided to use photos from its own morgue instead of the photos provided by the AP for the Holmes story. I don't know what was behind that decision, but it did lead to an erroneous caption for one of the pictures. The caption reads: "Sherlockiana at the University of Minnesota's Wilson Library (emphasis mine) includes an 1887 copy of "A Study in Scarlet," an original draft page 24 from "The Hound of the Baskervilles," an ashtray from the Sherlock Holmes Pub in London and other items." The Holmes Collections moved out of Wilson Library in late 1999 and have resided in the Elmer L. Andersen Library ever since. Whoever does the Stribs captions didn't do their fact-checking. That, in turn, will lead people to Wilson library asking about the Holmes collections, at which point they'll be directed to Andersen Library (unless they want to see the permanent exhibit of the 221B sitting room that has resided on the 4th floor of Wilson since 2008).

At the same time, it was great to see an old picture of "Mac"--E. W. MacDiarmid in the stacks with the Holmes Collections (probably taken when the materials from the Hench Collection arrived in 1978, and probably taken when that part of the collection resided in Walter Library, on the East Bank campus). That was the first time that Mac's path crossed mine, when I was a graduate student in the Library School, taking classes on the 4th floor of Walter Library. Fond memories.

Sherlock Holmes: The Movie and the Collections

Just thought I'd make a brief note of a couple of items that came out from the Associated Press the other day about our Sherlock Holmes Collections. Look here if you're interested in the print version of the story and here if you want to see another AP bit on YouTube. Since this was an AP report, the story appeared in any number of papers and other media sites. At least a few of those included the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Minneapolis StarTribune, and ABC News.

I had a lot of fun doing the interviews with the AP reporter, Jeff Baenen. I'm looking forward to a couple of other pieces hitting the airwaves/net soon: a couple of pieces from our own University Relations department, and from the public radio show "Studio 360."

And, of course, there's the movie. I'm looking forward to seeing it (although I haven't found anyone yet who can get me into a sneak preview--which I'd love to do). I've been checking the trailer for some time now, noting a few subtle changes in trailer and web site along the way. Bottom line--I think its going to be a lot of fun.

It was interesting--a great word here in the upper midwest--to see that the movie has received a Golden Globe nomination, although the category is a bit jarring--best actor for Robert Downey Jr. for a musical or comedy. I'm sure the characterization of the movie as musical or comedy will come as a bit of a shock to some of the Sherlockians/Holmesians out there, who would most likely think of Holmes in terms of drama. Anyway, we shall see (and soon, I hope)...