Tales from work experience - Alfie and Katie

Alfie

As well as continuing the walking tour project, we put together an exhibition entitled "Conan Doyle on hols" which showed Doyle's travels and family holidays. We concerned ourselves with the techniques required to carefully handle delicate books in order to prepare them for display. We used acid tape to bind certain pages together and photo albums on certain pages. It was fascinating to flick through photos that are nearly a century old. We felt a great sense of achievement when the exhibition was complete but our efforts seemed belittled by how quickly people observed the exhibition before moving on, rather fleetingly!

We continued collecting photos for the app project which, at times, became a very stressful process. When one spends ages trying to find a single reference with no result it is so frustrating. Equally, when you do find the material it is incredibly rewarding. One thing I did notice was that you can start looking at one thing and end up somewhere completely different which leaves you questioning what your initial intention was. You can get lost in the archives!

Katie

In the archives, Alfie and I found a variety of interesting pieces. A shared favourite of ours is Nina Mdivani's book, entitled "The Magnificent Mdivanis". I particularly liked the front cover that she made where she called herself "Princess Nina Mdivani Conan Doyle", and the drawing of a crown on the front of the folder.

I was also interested in the spiritualism section. Here, I found many photographs of spiritualists purportedly producing ectoplasm, with some even showing the ectoplasm lifting a table! There is also a strange photo of a person "holding hands" with some ectoplasm! Most of the ectoplasm photographs are confusing, particularly as the look of the ectoplasm changes in each photo, for example in some the substance looks like cloth, yet in others it looks leathery… This lessens the credibility of all of the pictures of ectoplasm, but it is interesting none the less.

The spirit writings were also interesting, but one that caught my eye was a letter that was supposedly written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, so it seemed more relevant in the collection than other spirit writings. The handwriting in the letter is slightly less neat than Conan Doyle's normal handwriting, yet it still does look like his handwriting, and his signature is the same! If the letter was faked, the person who faked it would need to be dedicated to replicating Conan Doyle's handwriting for it to be taken seriously, and as it looks reasonably similar, either the letter was a good fake or Conan Doyle's spirit actually did write a letter!

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