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.”