We the Detectives: Exhibitions and Immersive Theater Exploring the History of the Mystery

Parkway Central Library
Department of External Affairs
1901 Vine Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103-1189
Phone: 215-567-7710
Contact: Alix Gerz

Free Library to Present We the Detectives, Exhibitions and Immersive Theater Exploring the History of the Mystery

Special exhibitions at the Rosenbach and the Free Library’s Rare Book Department merge with theatrical performances by New Paradise Laboratories

PHILADELPHIA, February 7, 2017—The Free Library of Philadelphia is proud to present We the Detectives, a series of exhibitions and immersive theatrical experiences that explores the fascinating story behind the art of crime and detection in literature. Clever Criminals and Daring Detectives and Becoming the Detective: The Making of a Genre will draw from the rich collections at the Rosenbach and the Free Library’s Rare Book Department to bring crime stories front and center, uncovering what has made this form of literature one of the most enduring and popular. GUMSHOE, an immersive theatrical experience produced by partner New Paradise Laboratories, will lead participants—in person or on mobile devices—through a captivating “whodunnit” that raises questions about authenticity, fact versus fiction, and what makes all of us detectives in our own right. We the Detectives, running April 8 through September 1, 2017, is made possible through a generous grant from the William Penn Foundation.

We the Detectives unites the Free Library and the Rosenbach’s special collections, showcasing the daring and captivating history of the detective novel,” said Free Library President and Director Siobhan A. Reardon. “In addition, through our first-ever partnership with New Paradise Laboratories, we will bring dynamic, experimental theater directly to our customers in a new and exciting way, highlighting the Library’s role as a space for live arts like never before.”

Since the early days of printing, readers have been gripped by real-life tales of highwaymen and murderers and the last words of executed criminals. Clever Criminals and Daring Detectives at the Rosenbach explores this history of and fascination with crime—factual and fictional—in literary history from the 1600s to the 1900s. Objects on display include the earliest account of an American multiple murderer, the manuscript of the Sherlock Holmes story “The Adventure of the Empty House,” and letters from mystery writer Ellery Queen about collecting detective fiction.

Picking up the tale is the Rare Book Department’s Becoming the Detective, which explores the development of fictional detective stories and their relationship with readers. Beginning with Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” this exhibition highlights the metamorphosis of the genre, with readers moving from passive observers to active participants in solving the crime alongside their fictional detective counterparts. Objects featured in Becoming the Detective include Poe’s handwritten manuscript for “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” movie posters of Sherlock Holmes films, and first editions of The Hardy Boys novels.

Both exhibitions will be further enhanced through a partnership with New Paradise Laboratories, which will bring live immersive performances of its original production GUMSHOE to Parkway Central Library from April 8 through May 7. This live caper will take participants throughout the library—including to spaces typically closed to the public—as they attempt to get to the bottom of a top-secret crime that has yet to take place. In addition, throughout the We the Detectives program period, participants can access a mobile version of GUMSHOE that will lead them on a mysterious path from the Free Library to the Rosenbach and other points along the way!

For a full list of operating hours and performance times, and to reserve a free ticket to GUMSHOE, please visit freelibrary.org/detectives.

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The Free Library of Philadelphia system, with 54 locations and the Rosenbach, advances literacy, guides learning, and inspires curiosity with millions of digital and physical materials; 25,000 yearly programs and workshops; free public computers and extensive Wi-Fi, including neighborhood Hotspots; and rich special collections, including  those at Parkway Central Library and at the Rosenbach. With more than 6 million in-person visits and millions more online annually, the Free Library and the Rosenbach are among the most widely used educational and cultural institutions in Philadelphia and boast a worldwide impact.