Friday, November 5, 2010

Gibson Girls

This original 1896 edition of Pictures of People by Charles Dana Gibson is currently on display in the Hood Museum's Space for Dialogue, in an exhibition curated by Sarah Peterson '10.  Sarah describes the compilation of Gibson's early pen and ink drawings as follows:

The book mainly focuses upon the Gibson Girl and her exploits while finding a mate: It was of principle importance to the Gibson Girl to secure a husband while she was young and beautiful. Therefore many of Gibson’s drawings explore the themes of love and courtship. This focus is present in “A Little Story: By a Sleeve.” The Gibson Girl in this image circa 1896 is wearing the most fashionable dress of her day. Interestingly, it is her garment that is central to the action of the scene. In the 1890’s the sleeves of dresses became increasingly large, until in the mid-1890’s they reached balloon-like proportions. Here, the Gibson Girl’s dress serves as evidence that the young man and woman were sitting inappropriately close to one another just before the servant arrived.

The Gibson Man was made by Charles Dana Gibson to accompany his leading female in her search for love. He is strong chinned, slim, and attractive, yet at times rendered powerless by the mystifying allure of the young Gibson Girl. However, ultimately he will succeed in his pursuit of the free and independent lady and she will in the end accept marriage and motherhood or be doomed to the fate of becoming an old maid.

You can see the Gibson Girl on display with the rest of Sarah's exhibit at the Hood Museum through January, 2011. After that, ask for Rauner Illus G357pi.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

"More like Dr. Watson than Sherlock Holmes"

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, lost his son Kingsley during the 1918 influenza pandemic, two weeks before the Armistice that ended the First World War. Over the course of the war, Conan Doyle’s brother, two brothers-in-law, and nephew also died. In the wake of these losses, he became devoted to promoting spiritualism, which may have provided consolation in his grief, as it did to many who sought contact with departed loved ones. Many of Conan Doyle’s spiritualist writings omitted identifying him as the creator of Sherlock Holmes.

Among Rauner Library’s collections is the archive of the Arctic explorer Viljhalmur Stefansson, who taught at Dartmouth from 1947 to 1962. Stefansson first met Conan Doyle in London in 1913, and the two corresponded during Stefansson’s Arctic travels and through the First World War. Stefansson visited Conan Doyle in England in 1920, and wrote later in his autobiography that in terms of spiritualism, he found Conan Doyle’s “ready acceptance inconsistently naïve. Confronted with the spirit world, Doyle was more like Dr. Watson than Sherlock Holmes.”

Despite his friend’s skepticism, Conan Doyle enlisted Stefansson’s help in debunking a fraudulent séance during his 1922 American lecture tour. When Conan Doyle returned to England, he wrote to Stefansson that he felt his work in America had brought “knowledge and comfort to a lot of people.” He went on to write: “How strange our tasks! You are working on reindeer and I on disembodied spirits & both are equally part of the great whole. I quite see the Imperial aspect of your work.”

Come and see these materials and many others at the new exhibit in Rauner Special Collections Library, “The Adventure of the Archives: Detecting Sherlock Holmes in Rauner,” in the Class of 1965 Galleries. The exhibit was curated by Laura Braunstein and will be on display through December 22.