The Arthur Conan Doyle Collection Lancelyn Green Bequest

Conan Doyle
  1. Why has the collection been given to Portsmouth?
  2. What is Conan Doyle’s link with Portsmouth?
  3. What is the city going to do with the collection?
  4. What items will need to be removed from the library to make way for the collection?
  5. How soon will it be on view to the general public? 
  6. How many pieces are there in the collection?
  7. What types of things are in the collection?
  8. What Conan Doyle material was housed already in Portsmouth?
  9. Does Portsmouth City Council hold any other significant collections?
  10. Will you have to pay to see the collection?
  11. Where is the collection at the moment?
  12. What would have happened to the collection if Portsmouth had not accepted the bequest?
  13. How long did it take to build up the collection?
  14. What has been done with the collection since its arrival in Portsmouth?
  15. Can we see the collection now?
  16. How long does cataloguing take?
  17. How can I receive updates on the collection?
  18. What other literature links does Portsmouth have?
  19. Is there a Conan Doyle education pack?
  20. Are there any volunteering opportunities with the collection?
  21. Where can I find out more about the five priority areas?
  22. How is the collection being supported through funding?

 

Why has the collection been given to Portsmouth?

  • Portsmouth headed the list of recipients for the collection because of the city’s association with Conan Doyle – this was where he set up his first practice as a GP and where he wrote the first Sherlock Holmes story.
  • Portsmouth was the ‘birthplace’ of Sherlock Holmes.
  • The city possesses some Conan Doyle material already.
  • The way in which Portsmouth curates the Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum and its collections had also impressed Richard Lancelyn Green.

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What is Conan Doyle’s link with Portsmouth?

  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) is the most important author to have worked in Portsmouth. He lived here between 1882 and 1890, while attempting to establish himself as a doctor. It was because he lacked patients that he turned to literature to help earn a living.
  • His detective hero, Sherlock Holmes, was conceived during Doyle’s time in Portsmouth and he wrote the first two Holmes novels, A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four, while he lived in the city.
  • Doyle was also a significant author of historical novels, he wrote Micah Clarke while in the city and researched and drafted The White Company, his first novel about the Hundred Years’ War.

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What is the city going to do with the collection?

  • Currently a substantial amount of time is being devoted to cataloguing the collection thoroughly whilst preserving its current quality. In the meantime, an area of Portsmouth Central Library has been made available to house a portion of the books from the collection for public consultation. Work is still ongoing adapting and refurbishing the library to house the huge number of volumes that make up the collection.
  • Extensive plans for the development of the collections are being formulated including the setting up of a trust.

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What items will need to be removed from the library to make way for the collection?

We are fast forwarding dramatically a long postponed review of the reserve collection on the shelves – copies of books no longer fit for lending because of their battered state will be removed to make space and put into storage.

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How soon will it be on view to the general public? 

There have been two exhibitions featuring items from all areas of the collection. The most extensive, ‘A Study in Sherlock’ is freely available to visit daily at the Portsmouth City Museum. A selection of the books from the collection are currently available in the Local Studies section of the Central Library in Portsmouth.

Our library and archive teams are additionally undertaking the mammoth task of cataloguing and preserving the collection before it can be made available to the public. We are working towards producing a complete catalogue for the collection.

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How many pieces are there in the collection?

It is difficult to give a definite figure before the cataloguing processes are completed. However there are in the range of 2,000 artefacts, 15,000 books and 950 boxes full of archival material.

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What types of things are in the collection?

The collection is breathtaking in its scope. Not only is there a collection of approximately 5,000 Doyle family photographs, artefacts and original papers but the collection also reflects the life, times and works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Therefore we have material covering the dramatisation of his works, spiritualism and spiritualist photographs, the wider Victorian and Edwardian World, worldwide groups and societies, the development of the iconic Sherlock Holmes figure, scrapbooks, newspapers and magazines, first and rare editions and sale catalogues. We also have a vast amount of papers relating to Richard Lancelyn Green’s life and work as one of the world’s foremost Doylean experts.

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What Conan Doyle material was housed already in Portsmouth?

Portsmouth already possessed a modest amount of material related to Conan Doyle, who participated fully and enthusiastically however in the life of the town when he was in practice here during the 1880s and there are passing references to his activities in a number of local sources. It is not generally known that he was both a founder member and goalkeeper of the amatuer club that was the forerunner of the Portsmouth Football Club!

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Does Portsmouth City Council hold any other significant collections?

Yes, the Dickens Collection and the Naval Collection. The Dickens Collection is housed in its own room in the Central Library. The Naval Collection, which is one of the most important held outside London, is housed in the Local History and Naval Section of the Central Library and includes the very significant bequest of American collector Lily McCarthy – of antiquarian books relating particularly to Nelson and his Navy.  The Portsmouth Museum and Records Office also has numerous collections significant for local and social history.

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Will you have to pay to see the collection?

No – the collection will be available to everyone free of charge. This is something which is very important to the Lancelyn Green family.

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Where is the collection at the moment?

The collection is currently housed in Portsmouth City Council buildings. It has been split temporarily to enable each of the professional disciplines of librarians, museum curators and archivists to organise and preserve the material to the relevant national standards. This is necessary before public access can be provided.

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What would have happened to the collection if Portsmouth had not accepted the bequest?

Had Portsmouth not been able to accept the bequest, it would have then have been offered to Edinburgh and if they had refused, the Bodleian Library in Oxford.

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How long did it take to build up the collection?

Richard Lancelyn Green started the collection when he was ten and continued it over the next forty years of his life until he died when he was fifty years old.

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What has been done with the collection since its arrival in Portsmouth?

A great deal has been happened since the collection's arrival in the city. The professional staff of the libraries, museums and records services have been sorting, cataloguing and preserving the vast content of the collection. Two exhibitions have been produced and supported by a series of related events. Much planning is also taking place regarding the potential future development of the collection to maximise its potential for the city residents and Conan Doyle enthusiasts worldwide, such as the setting up of a trust.

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Can we see the collection now?

Artefacts, books, documents and photographs are on display in the exhibition currently running at the City Museum in Portsmouth, A Study in Sherlock.

A selection of the books from the collection, numbering approximately 900 volumes, have been recently made available for reference use in the Local Studies section of the Central Library in Portsmouth. No appointment is necessary. To use this section of the library, you will need to bring one of the following forms of identification:

  • Portsmouth City Libraries ticket
  • CARN Record Office card
  • Driving licence
  • Current student card, giving your name and name of institution
  • Armed forces ID card
  • Other proof of name and address, such as a gas bill

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How long does cataloguing take?

Cataloguing is a very time consuming process. It is necessary to enable visitors to be able to choose which items from the collection they want to see and to place them together with other relevant matter. Items also need to be preserved so they cannot be damaged by handling.  Therefore each of the thousands of individual pieces in the collection needs to be sorted, arranged, preserved, entered on a computer database, numbered and stored safely.  This process takes approximately 10 hours per box and as there are 950 boxes the whole collection so it would take one person working full time 5 years to complete the whole process!

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How can I receive updates on the collection?

Regular updates regarding the collection are available on this website. In addition printed newsletters are regularly produced. If you would like to receive these please email LancelynGreenCollection@portsmouthcc.gov.uk.

Or call 023 9283 4183

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What other literature links does Portsmouth have?

Portsmouth has a wealth of links with literary figures. Walter Besant, Charles Dickens, George Meredith, Rudyard Kipling, Neville Shute and HG Wells all have strong links with the city. This tradition is carried on today with successful current authors such as Julia Bryant and Graham Hurley based here.

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Is there a Conan Doyle education pack?

Education packs are currently under development. If you would like to receive one or to find out more, please email: LancelynGreenCollection@portsmouthcc.gov.uk

Or call 023 9283 4183

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Are there any volunteering opportunities with the collection?

Yes. There are various ways in which volunteers can become involved with the project. For further information please contact: LancelynGreenCollection@portsmouthcc.gov.uk

Or call 023 9283 4183

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Where can I find out more about the five priority areas?

Currently the archivists are concentrating on the areas in which there will be most interest. These are the original Doyle family material, dramatisations, Victorian and Edwardian Life, Spiritualism and the Sherlock Holmes phenomena.  More information will be available through the newsletters and once the collection is catalogued.

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How is the collection being supported through funding?

The collection is supported currently by Portsmouth City Council supplemented by sponsorship from local and Sherlockian interest groups. There are a wide range of activities for which the collection can offer sponsorship opportunities. If you are interested in discussing this further please contact: LancelynGreenCollection@portsmouthcc.gov.uk

Or call 023 9283 4183

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