British photographic history

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Seminar: Conan Doyle and the Cottingley Fairies / London: 31 March 2020

The Science Museum has announced its research seminar series for winter and spring 2020. They are free to attend and open to science museum staff, students, museum professionals and academics with a research interest in the history of science, technology, medicine and  museums as well as material and visual culture more broadly. Admission is free. 

Of particular note is Merrick Burrow discussing the Cottingley Fairies and Conan Doyle. 

In the December 1920 issue of the Strand Magazine Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, published what he considered to be conclusive photographic proof of the existence of  fairies. He followed up this article with another one the following March, which featured three more photographs by Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright, the same young women who had taken  the two original pictures. As a result of Doyle's patronage these five photographs of ‘the  Cottingley fairies’ became a global cause célèbre.

Doyle, though widely mocked, maintained his view that the photographs were genuine. Frances and Elsie refused for decades to bow to pressure to confess to faking the pictures. Eventually  they admitted the hoax in the 1980s, though Frances maintained to the end that one of the photographs was genuine.

In this talk Dr Merrick Burrow will explore the background to the Cottingley fairies photographs  and the peculiar circumstances that turned them into the world’s greatest photographic hoax.

Dr Merrick Burrow is Head of English and Creative Writing at the University of Huddersfield. He is curator of a major exhibition on the Cottingley fairies at the Brotherton Library, Leeds, running from September 2020.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the Case of the Cottingley Fairies: Merrick Burrow (University of Huddersfield)
Date: Tuesday 31 March 2020, 13.00–14.00

Dana Research Centre & Library
165 Queen’s Gate, London, SW7 5HD.
Feel free to bring a packed lunch to eat during the seminar.


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