COSI’s Sherlock Holmes exhibit puts young sleuths on the case

Visitors to the Sherlock Holmes exhibition opening Saturday at COSI Columbus will be invited to help solve a mystery by the great detective himself.

To get instructions from Holmes, kids need only to step up to a phonograph. (Kids, ask your grandparents what it is.)

“I require your assistance,” Holmes intones. “You must go to the crime scene and examine it with a fresh eye; test Scotland Yard’s findings; trust the evidence, not the theories; collect the data; and record the observations in your notebooks.

“Hurry along now, the game’s afoot.”

From there, visitors step into the crime scene: a study, complete with signs of struggle, such as an overturned chair and a shattered bust of Napoleon on the floor.

It’s a no-brainer that solving a mystery would be part of a Holmes exhibit and that it would be a hands-on experience.

What visitors might not expect, however, is how much they will learn before they even get to the phonograph.

The first half of the exhibit, which runs through Sept. 1, immerses people in the world of author Arthur Conan Doyle, who created Holmes, and the late-19th-century world in which he and his characters lived.

“We wanted to tell … (Doyle’s) story, separately from anything fictional,” said Geoffrey Curley, whose company, Geoffrey M. Curley + Associates of St. Paul, Minn., designed the Holmes exhibit. “We wanted to look at how this (Holmes) character was created, and a lot of that goes to the influences on Conan Doyle himself.”

Therefore, one learns about the state of police work and the medical field of the times.

Joseph Bell, a prominent physician and one of Doyle’s mentors, is credited with helping the writer to create stories in which forensic science was valued in criminal investigations.

That seems basic these days, but 130 years ago, it was groundbreaking.

“It bothered him (Doyle) that detectives always reached a solution to their cases by what he thought were unworthy means,” said Jon Lellenberg, the U.S. representative for the Doyle estate. “ The important thing to understand is that the science in the stories worked.”

If Curley and others who worked on the exhibit were successful, visitors will leave the exhibit having solved a mystery and learned a skill.

“What I hope people pick up is how to observe,” Curley said. “And how to not always trust what may seem obvious.”