Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sherlock Holmes and Allen Mackler

At the moment there are three Sherlock Holmes exhibits on display in the University of Minnesota Libraries, all built around the theme for our August 6-8 conference, "The Spirits of Sherlock Holmes." My posts over the next days will talk about each one, taking text from the exhibit booklets and a few pictures I've taken of each exhibit.

I'll start with the exhibit that has been open since June "The Spirits of Sherlock Holmes: Through The Eyes of an Enthusiast ­-- The Allen Mackler Collection." This exhibit will be open through August 29th.

I met Allen Mackler for the first time in January 1998. I was about to make a public presentation, a part of the interview process for the position I eventually obtained --­ Curator of Special Collections & Rare Books at the University of Minnesota. Allen was seated in the front row. He was there because of his love of nineteenth century literature and his enthusiasm for Sherlock Holmes. The presentation was a bit unnerving, in part because it was the middle of the afternoon, I had just returned from the Middle East (still suffering from jet lag), and because Allen fell asleep during my talk. (I don’t think he would mind me telling the story.) It was, I found out, part of his charm. From that time onwards our paths crossed, often at Holmesian gatherings, or else during his wanderings through the library. Occasionally, he sought my advice on a specific book repair or to point out a particular volume (or to talk about the best place to find a hamburger). More than once we traveled to New York together, to attend the annual gathering of the Baker Street Irregulars. There was always something interesting that drew Allen’s attention (and which drew our attention to Allen).

Allen’s interests in Sherlock Holmes and Victorian literature are apparent in this exhibit. We are delighted to share a bit of his life through the contents of these cases and in the replica of the sitting room from that most famous London address, 221B Baker Street, found in the adjacent room. A separate booklet describes the sitting room and its fascination with Sherlockians.

We lost Allen five years ago, on December 29, 2005. His presence lives on through his collection, the sitting room, and his generous spirit. It also lives on through his writings and past reports of his activities within the Holmesian world.

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