The Dissecting Room . . . October 1984
Of Fortunes and Fantasies
Few among us can claim to have been untouched by the fervor surrounding the record $40 million Illinois Lottery jackpot a few weeks ago. Nearly everyone in the country must have wondered, at least briefly -- what would I do with the money? Althougb the excitement over that particular prize has died down, similar opportunities (although on a somewhat smaller scale) continue to arise everywhere we turn. Go ahead, indulge your fantasies for a moment . . . what would you do with a few million dollars?
Before you make any decisions, take a moment to remember your devotion to the Sherlockian cause. Sure, you could do the obvious things: buy fancy cars, a bigger house, a boat, a trip around the world. But you can be more creative than that.
Imagine that you could use your money to build one structure that would fulfill your every desire for Sherlockian enjoyment. For example, you'd want to have as many Sherlockian books, recordings, photographs, and other resources as possible at your fingertips for endless hours of browsing pleasure. And how about an auditorium with a projection screen on which to show classic Holmes films in their full glory. Of course, you would also need a theater for the performance of Sherlockian plays.
A popular sidelight on Sherlockiana is the accumulation of those thousands of items with a Holmes motif, not to mention collectibles that have an intrinsic Sherlockian interest. Since this is an exercise of-the imagination, why not allow yourself the luxury of the world's largest collection of Holmesiana, with plenty of space for display.
Now you're getting the idea, but you can imagine more than that. Why settle for small items-why not include space for a really big display, like a genuine hansom cab? For that matter, why not recreate the rooms at 221B Baker Street so that you can really steep yourself in the gaslight mood?
Imagining a place such as this is not at all difficult, and for a very good reason. All of it has already been imagined by a very talented Australian architect named Derham Groves. The structure itself is the proposed Sherlock Holmes Center which, barring the interference of Moriarty, will one day be constructed at the University of Minnesota. It will serve as a center for research, exhibit, and performance, all devoted to the Master, his milieu, and his followers.
Derham Grove's lifelong devotion to the cause is very much evident in the loving care and ingenious detail he has put into his design. The center will include an auditorium and a theater on the first floor, a museum on the second, and a library on the third. In addition to all the features previously described, picture these:
* A rather whimsical Holmes silhouette, repeated in a giant mosaic on all four facades.
* A walkway in which the footprints of notable Sherlockians would be imprinted, in honour of Holmes's monograph on the subject.
* An alcove constructed as a replica of the interior of a Victorian train carriage, in which one can sit and drink in the atmosphere.
* A Reichenbach fountain falling from the third to the first floor, topped by a statue of Holmes and Moriarty locked in deadly struggle.
In short, the Sherlock Holmes Center looks to be the best Sherlockian fantasy that money can buy, at least until someone invents the time machine. And the best part is that once it is built, you won't have to win the lottery to use it.
The University of Minnesota already has a most impressive Sherlockian collection which will grow to Mycroftian proportions when private collector John Bennett Shaw goes to the great Sussex Downs in the sky. The Sherlock Holmes Center has been designed to house that collection. It may seem an impossible dream to some, but there are those who have reason to believe that the center can become a reality in as few as ten years. The only thing required for it to be built are a site and, of course, money.
So next time you buy that lottery ticket or send in your Publishers' Clearinghouse sweepstakes entry, keep your fellow Sherlockians in mind. Just in case.
(Printed in Plugs & Dottles, October 1984)