Minnesotans are known for having an affinity for books, book fairs, bookstores, and well-equipped libraries. Hennepin County Library system ranks up in the top ten of the many lists proclaiming the largest collections or circulation numbers. As does the University of Minnesota’s library. But who knew that the U held the ‘the world’s largest gathering of material related to Sherlock Holmes and his creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle?’
The Collections consist of over 60,000 items including books, journals, and a wide variety of other forms through which the transformation of the Holmes character from the printed page to a cultural icon can be traced.
Please note: The collection itself is housed in our secure underground storage area and is generally not available for viewing on a tour. If you are interested in seeing particular items from the Sherlock Holmes Collections please consult the online catalog or other finding aids to locate particular items of interest.University of MN Libraries
The story behind how this came to be is spelled out in an article in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Magazine. As with many good collections it started with a few passionate people.
“But you have to go back to 1948,” he says, to a now legendary lunch of five faculty members, all deans or department heads, all deep Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts, at Coffman Union’s Campus Club.
Then there was an addition to the collection here, and the coup of a very valuable collection in 1978.
The next domino was landing eccentric Santa Fe collector John Bennett Shaw’s massive Holmes collection. Unlike Hench, Shaw was a Holmes completist—rare posters, license plates, street signs. After the U landed Shaw’s stash in the ’90s, the floodgates opened.
All of this is located in the sub-basement of the Andersen Library on the U of MN Twin Cities campus. After nearly eighty years of collecting and maintaining the collection, you might even say it’s turning into an institution.