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Frost Science Museum's Latest Exhibit Has Visitors Solving Crimes

Put on your deerstalker hat for the Frost Science Museum's latest exhibition.
Put on your deerstalker hat for the Frost Science Museum's latest exhibition. Photo courtesy of Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science
The Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science's latest exhibition invites visitors to solve a crime utilizing the same logical reasoning and deduction used by literary hero Sherlock Holmes.

In "Sherlock Holmes: The Exhibition," you're transported back to Victorian London, starting in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's study. As the creator of Sherlock Holmes, Doyle was famous for combining the scientific discoveries of the time and art into his works.

"If you think about where policing lives at the turn of the 19th Century, there is a lot of new science," says Kate Carter, the museum's director of science communications. "Arthur Conan Doyle was inspired by a lot of this new science."

The exhibition's entrance is made up of two parts: the aforementioned study, which provides a lot of historical context for the works in which Holmes appears, followed by a tutorial of sorts that lets visitors test the systems they'll be working with throughout the exhibit, from ballistics to chemical observation to other forensic techniques. Amateur detectives also receive a notebook in which they can record their observations throughout the investigation. This first area also serves to re-create what Holmes' sitting room may have looked like based on literary descriptions.

Just beyond this area, a phonograph broadcasts Holmes' voice, which gives instructions on how to proceed in the exhibit. This is where the fun starts.
click to enlarge "Sherlock Holmes: The Exhibition" takes visitors to Victorian London. - PHOTO COURTESY OF PHILLIP AND PATRICIA FROST MUSEUM OF SCIENCE
"Sherlock Holmes: The Exhibition" takes visitors to Victorian London.
Photo courtesy of Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science
The investigation is broken up into seven sections, each exploring a different aspect of the crime scene. In one of those areas, visitors can reconstruct a broken bust damaged during the crime.

"The best science is where you can experiment, so you have these busts, and you'll notice that there is a bust in the crime scene," Carter explains. "There are different things that may have led to the destruction of the bust. That's the entire part of deduction."

After recording their observations, visitors can take their notebooks and learn whether they solved the crime. Those who don't reach the correct conclusion can go through the exhibit again and see if they missed something or proceed to the end and read the explanation of the crime.

At the exit, the exhibit puts Sherlock Holmes' pop-culture influence into context through movie props, comic books, and movie posters. Also near the exit door are screens highlighting the fictional detective's impact on modern forensics and how the forensics field has grown over the centuries.
click to enlarge Amateur detectives can explore different aspects of the crime throughout the exhibition. - PHOTO COURTESY OF PHILLIP AND PATRICIA FROST MUSEUM OF SCIENCE
Amateur detectives can explore different aspects of the crime throughout the exhibition.
Photo courtesy of Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science
Exhibits Development Group in Oregon developed the exhibit with the assistance of Sherlock Holmes historians and forensic scientists. (Florida International Univerity forensics students even visited the exhibition to test its authenticity.)

"Forensics is one of those things that kind of combined science, art, and medicine," Carter says. "Science can only get you so far, and then you have to use your deduction skills like Sherlock Holmes to kind of take it the last step. And so it was really important to make sure that we didn't overpromise what forensic science can do."

"Sherlock Holmes: The Exhibition" is on view through September 5, giving kids as much access as possible to hands-on science throughout the summer.

"The Conan Doyle estate can't remember an undertaking as involved and exciting as this one," says Jon Lellenberg, the estate's U.S. representative. "Museum visitors will experience the scientific and literary ideas that inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to create Sherlock Holmes and Holmes' methods for investigating and solving crimes as the world's first consulting detective, and they will visit their two worlds, including the very rooms in which all this took place."

"Sherlock Holmes: The Exhibition." On view through September 5, at Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science, 1101 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-434-9600; frostscience.org. Tickets cost $24.95 to $29.95; free for children 3 and under and museum members.
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