By Melissa Hernandez
A vintage chandelier hung from the ceiling and Victorian wallpaper adorns the walls. Old newspapers hung on display alongside the original works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. A crime scene at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science invited visitors to solve a mystery using Sherlock Holmes’ technique of deductive reasoning.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s timeless fictional character and our favorite detective, Sherlock Holmes once again makes an appearance in Dallas. Upon entering the exhibit you are greeted by the one and only Dr. John Watson. He gives you instructions and a journal to write and record all your findings. The first room provides you with a little bit of history and background information on London and Sir Doyle. Next, you are invited into a strange world where you learn the different techniques of unraveling a mystery. Finally, you are placed at a murder scene and asked to observe and solve the mystery laid before you.
The international exhibit of Sherlock Holmes showcases the fictional detective’s method of deduction, which revolutionized modern forensic science.
Perot Museum CEO Colleen Walker expressed her excitement on being selected as one of the stops of the International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes.
“We are so excited,” Walker said. “We are the fourth stop, the only Texas stop on a ten-state American city tour, then it goes back internationally, so the best time to see Sherlock is right now at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science.”
A few items from the exhibit are on loan from London and will be returned after its stop at the Perot. A heart from an actual 1831 murder scene and tissue sample from the chest cavity are among those items.
“If you want to see the exhibition in its entirety without a single missing piece you have to see it at the Perot,” Walker said.
The interactive and immersive exhibit took three years for the Exhibits Development Group (EDG) to put together. The Perot lobbied to be part of the traveling exhibition because it recognized the value of showcasing it.
“It’s an important story we want to tell because it’s all based on science,” Walker said. “The story and the mystery is fiction, everything else is fact.”
Perot Vice President of Revenue Operations Jennifer Scripps said that the exhibition has received positive feedback by the public.
“We’re getting an amazing response,” Scripps said. “I think Sherlock mania is coming to the Perot and we are thrilled. It’s a great cultural phenomena given the popularity of the movies and the show but we like it because it’s a great way to teach deduction data gathering, inference and all the skills that scientists use. Sherlock is a great lens through which to get people excited.”
Forensic anthropologist with the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s office and president of the Forensic Anthropology office Dana Austin, dubbed “Sherlady” by her colleagues, made a few remarks sharing her admiration for Sherlock Holmes.
“As an avid reader, I loved sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s short mysteries and I was inspired to figure out the mystery along with him,” Austin said. “Watson was often perplexed and I wanted to be more like Sherlock Holmes, who employed scientific methods to deduce the answer to the mystery.”
Austin explained that this exhibit is so valuable because of its place as a starting point for many modern practices in the scientific world.
“Many ideas put forth in the Sherlock Holmes stories were later developed by scientists into techniques we use today,” Austin said. “The exhibit discusses methods employed by Sherlock Holmes which, although fictional, were based on true scientific principles and helped lay the foundation for modern forensic science.”
The exhibit will be on display through May 10. The exhibition is bilingual, thereby catering to a larger audience. The journey to solve the mystery put forth by the exhibit may take some time and may leave you confused, but it is all part of the fun. As Walker said, the exhibit is not something that can simply be rushed through but rather is an “inquisitive journey” in which visitors will immerse themselves. Austin adds that forensic science does not always work like it seems to in television.
“It’s not like it is on TV, it takes a little bit of time,” Austin said. “You have to observe everything and apply the scientific method to figure out the answer.”