Senior history major Sabrina Barlow gave a pre­sen­tation for her museum studies project on the evo­lution of sto­ry­telling, focusing on the char­acter and stories of Sherlock Holmes. Eliz­abeth Bachmann | Collegian

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “Sherlock Holmes encap­su­lates the pro­gression of sto­ry­telling, according to senior history major Sabrina Barlow. 

In her Senior Museum Studies project which she pre­sented in the Her­itage Room last Thursday morning, she said sto­ry­telling is an inher­ently com­munal human expe­rience, but that with the advent of certain tech­nologies, it pro­gres­sively becomes more indi­vid­u­al­istic and less communicative. 

Barlow chose to focus this study through the lense of Sherlock Holmes because there are 25,000 iter­a­tions of the story and char­acters to date. She traced the pro­gression of these iter­a­tions, from the formal iter­a­tions of the early to mid 1900s, to the more adaptive ver­sions of the 2000s, to the present. 

She said that as the pro­duc­tions became more divergent from the original and began to take dif­ferent forms, like bingeable TV series, comic books, mer­chandise, they con­cur­rently became more divided and isolated. 

“With the advent of mul­ti­media, you have lit­er­ature, oral, and visual stories, and par­tic­u­larly the internet makes sto­ry­telling com­pletely con­nective,” Barlow said. “But, in a way, while it is con­nective, it has also become seg­mented. You can get whatever you want at the touch of a finger; you don’t have to leave your house to expe­rience dif­ferent things. So in that sense, nowadays, with so many dif­ferent options, the ability to binge-watch Netflix, fandom con­ven­tions, and cosplay, you don’t ever have to talk to someone who isn’t of your own beliefs or interests, and this is isolating.” 

Barlow filed the first of her two cases with Holmes’ of the early 20th century, leaving it more sparse to indicate that there were less stories available in that era. 

The second case she filled with the various ver­sions of the deer­stalker hat, cal­abash pipe, Sherlock bob­blehead, and Sherlock comics to rep­resent all the diverging mediums and inter­pre­tation of the char­acter today. 

Pro­fessor of History David Stewart advised Barlow throughout her project. 

“This is exactly what any kind of museum studies project should do: take the familiar and get you to look at it in a new and dif­ferent way,” Stewart said. “Sabrina wants to make you think about sto­ry­telling in a very dif­ferent way than when you first saw that there would be a talk about the history of storytelling.” 

Barlow’s project is also not a typical senior thesis. Aside from writing and research, the project involves studying the ele­ments of design: how colors interact, and how dif­ferent levels and depths capture viewers attention in dif­ferent ways, according to Stewart. 

Barlow said she has loved history since she was a child and plans to go into the museum field. She has worked in museums since the sixth grade and recently interned for  the Museum of Mar­itime History in New Jersey, the National Archives in Georgia, and the Hol­liday-Dorsey-Fife museum in Georgia. 

“It is inter­esting to see all the dif­ferent styles of people and cases and museums that you get.” Barlow said. “History has been my passion since I was a tiny kid. My mom showed me the musical ‘1776’ when I was three and that was it, it was all over.”