For years the Conan Doyle Collection, part of the Lancelyn Green bequest to Portsmouth, has been the great ‘lost’ attraction of our city.
The City Museum does as good a job as it can in showcasing the vast trove of items, but understandably struggles to give them all due prominence as it simply doesn’t have the space – and it has commitments to display other exhibitions, both fixed and temporary, within its walls.
And so the collection finds itself in limbo, which as Sherlock Holmes continues to exert a great pull on the nation’s – and indeed the world’s – collective imagination is a great shame.
So we welcome the renewed vigour to create a standalone Sherlock Holmes attraction. Whether a fan of Basil Rathbone, or Benedict Cumberbatch – or just a reader enthralled by the ingenuity of both plot and character in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories – we know there will be an appetite out there for such a plan, whether one calls it a museum, an interactive experience, or whatever the latest buzz phrase is.
We know that in some ways we don’t have a huge claim over Conan Doyle – he was neither born nor died here, the two usual markers for tying an eminent person to an area. However, he did conceive the character Sherlock Holmes while practising as a GP in Southsea, and the key to it is that we have the collection here – itself bequeathed to the city because its owner was so impressed by the City Museum’s work.
The key to the project in this incarnation, is that the Heritage Lottery Fund is already publicly enthusiastic. This gives it more impetus than previous schemes, such as the well-intentioned plan to have a Sherlock Holmes attraction in the Northern Quarter. Sadly, if we were to wait for that, we would be marking an anniversary of A Study in Scarlet much greater than ‘just’ 130 years.
While this plan is by no means a done deal, it has political will, funding interest and a location already in place. It’s a good start – and we hope to see news of progress from the meeting planned for this week.