With work falling somewhere between scholarly research and fan-fiction, groups across the world are keeping Sherlock Holmes alive, even if he never was to begin with.
These societies, such as the Baker Street Irregulars, find it fun to act and write as if Holmes were an actual historical figure.
For some people, it’s strange to see so much time and energy spent pretending a fictional character is real. But with figures such as politicians and cable news hosts acting more cartoonish by the day, maybe all the attention for a fictional character isn’t so strange.
Holmes has a lot to teach us. And most of it can be found in the corner of Wilson Library’s rare book collection reading room.
That’s where one of the largest Holmes collections in the southeastern United States is kept. Assembled during a roughly 20-year period by Mary Shore Cameron, it was donated to UNC in 1978, a decade after her death.
The collection holds more than 3,000 items, including translations printed in Japan and Denmark, letters written by Sherlock creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock-themed greeting cards and stationery.
But on the international radar, UNC’s collection is just a tiny blip. The University of Minnesota and the Toronto Public Library have Holmes collections as large as 10 times the size of UNC’s.
Improving the Sherlock Holmes collection is understandably low on UNC’s list of priorities. What’s there now, though, has great value.
The Sherlockian approach of analysis and deduction won’t be much help against some of the less clear-cut problems on the University community’s mind. (How will I survive the budget crisis? Should Butch Davis have been fired? Is it right to eat meat?)
But it does provide an informed and clear-headed place to start — thinking. Simply taking in all the facts and determining every possible outcome, for better or for worse, obvious or improbable. Holmes was arrogant and show-offish, but he walked into a room with an open mind, ready and able to learn from others regardless of whether they were ready to teach him anything.
Politicians and newscasters, not to mention students and teachers, should take a hint.
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