Becoming the Detective: The Making of a Genre

April 8 – September 1, 2017
Rare Book Department at Parkway Central Library

Born in 1841, from the mind of Edgar Allan Poe, the detective story has long captured readers’ imaginations. Becoming the Detective: The Making of a Genre explores the story’s development and its readers’ integral role.

Although savants like Sherlock Holmes popularized the genre, in time it was not enough to stand by like Dr. Watson and narrate convoluted clues. Instead, readers wanted to solve the mystery themselves. By 1928, the golden age of detective fiction, formal rules determined whether the reader had a fair chance—a challenge for writers, who were both praised and vilified for their management of this contract. The new constraints forced a character-driven evolution, as in the darker hardboiled genre.

Becoming the Detective: The Making of a Genre goes beyond the page, exploring detective stories on stage, radio, film, television, and in board games like Clue. The exhibition features Poe’s manuscript for “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” movie posters of Sherlock Holmes, first editions of Hardy Boys novels, and Choose Your Own Adventure books.

Questions? Contact erefrbd@freelibrary.org or 215-686-5416.

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Clever Criminals and Daring Detectives

April 8 – September 1, 2017
The Rosenbach

Since the early days of printing, readers have thrilled to true crime tales of highwaymen, murderers, and the last words of executed criminals. These narratives provided a mix of lurid details, moral uplift, and reassurance of the workings of justice. While true crime attracted readers through the centuries, fictional crime stories came into their own with the advent of the modern detective novel in the 19th century. Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” launched this new genre, which blossomed through the century in works ranging from Charles Dickens’s The Mystery of Edwin Drood to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories and even Bram Stokers’ Dracula.

This exhibition chases both criminal and detective characters across a wide historical landscape and offers the chance to test visitors’ own sleuthing skills. Objects on display include the earliest account of an American multiple murderer, the manuscript of “The Adventure of the Empty House” by Arthur Conan Doyle, and Ellery Queen’s thoughts on collecting detective fiction.

Questions? Contact info@rosenbach.org or 215-732-1600.

Already visited Clever Criminals and Daring Detectives? Please let us know what you thought and you’ll be entered to win a MYSTERIOUS PRIZE!

We the Detectives is made possible through a generous grant from the William Penn Foundation.