To celebrate the 150 years since the original book by Lewis Carroll, the British Library is holding a free exhibition exploring the legacy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
When I heard about it, I felt almost obligated to assist. As a big fan of Carroll and all the adventures that Alice go through, my intention was to updated my agenda and head there as soon as I had the chance.
This being said, and considering that I am a foreigner in this city, who had never been before to the King’s Cross station or The British Library, you can imagine how much joy in just one day.
As I walked through the main building, I was delighted with the structure itself and those massive shelves that rise on the top floors of the library. Even though that I had clear my intentions when I got there, the first stop wasn’t the exhibition, it was the very lovely Alice in Wonderland pop-up shop on the right of the Entrance Hall.
There you can find the perfect and most original gifts for those Lewis Carroll fans, as well as a homeware section full of furniture and decorations with the most curious Alice in Wonderland patterns and characters. And of course, it is plenty of books and different editions of Alice’s adventures.
Once I have enjoyed the shop enough, I set out towards the exhibition. As expected, it consists in the popularity of Lewis Carroll’s original story, the first illustrations by John Tenniel and how it has been reimagined in the past 150 years. But what probably nobody expected is that you don’t start going through the books and the art in the first place, no. As it happens to Alice in some of her adventures, you just suddenly find yourself walking through this little path full of mirrors that turn your body into all different shapes, which are also replete of Alice’s portraits and quotes.
Moving forward, you get to the first bit of the exhibition and everything starts when you fall into the rabbit hole –where you can read in the wall: “start here”.
Really old pieces and manuscripts fill the cabinets of the hall and, of course, the main attraction is the original handwritten manuscript of Alice’s Adventures Under Ground, with 37 illustrations by Carroll.
In this section there is more information about Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson) and the inspiration for the story, Alice Liddell. As an interesting fact, the first adventures of the very imaginative little girl weren’t an instant success, but quickly gained popularity, specially for its kind of humour and surreal nature, which has led to a large number of artists create their own version of the stories.
Which lead us to my favourite bit of this magic journey, all the illustrations and paintings made by a lot of different artist in many different styles, all of them, fascinated for Alice’s curious travels. Among them, you can see the lovely work of Lucie Attwell or Charles Robinson as well as the creepy and extravagant art done by Mervyn Peake or Salvador Dalí.
Considering the popularity that the story finally get along all this years, it is important to highlight that it is not only about books and illustrations, but Alice has also been recreated in ballets, musicals, plays, computer games and films.
The exhibition also features the first movie adaption of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, a silent film from 1903 by Cecil Hepworth and Percy Stow. And as we know, Disney brought her back in the fifties as one of its greatest animated classics. We all remember as well how Tim Burton made the curious little girl real with Mia Wakikowska a few years ago, and taking advantage of the popularity it had, he will present on May 2016 the sequel Alice Through the Looking Glass.
To finish this I can’t do anymore than recommend you all to pop into this lovely little exhibition to come to your own conclusions and enjoy yourself. It will run from 20th November 2015 to 17th April 2016 in the entrance hall of the British Library, 96 Euston Road, London, NW1 2DB.
Words by Naomi. Project Manager at 400.