Yesterday I finally got round to going to the Alice in Wonderland exhibition at the British Library. I have to say, although I found it very interesting, my first thought when I arrived was how small it was. The British Library seem to have created quite a buzz around the exhibition and so I was surprised to find that it was so limited and located in what felt a bit like a hallway. I thought that by going midweek I’d manage to avoid the crowds and have time and space to browse at leisure but there were more people than I expected and, being housed it such a small and cramped area, it was unfortunately rather difficult to make your way around each other and see everything properly. (No photography is allowed in the exhibition and so I’ve had to search the internet for pictures).
Let’s not focus on the negative though! The exhibition itself was very interesting, containing Lewis Carroll’s original manuscript, created 150 years ago. The tiny book contains beautifully detailed hand-drawn illustrations, done by Carroll himself, which were particularly fascinating. It’s amazing to see how the image of Alice has evolved over time from a plain girl with a mass of thick, unruly, dark hair, to the pretty, neatly dressed blond child of the Disney films.
Being a lover of art and having once dreamed of being a children’s book illustrator as well as writer, it was the illustrations that I was particularly drawn to at the exhibition. It’s amazing just how much an illustrator can change a story, and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland seems to be a story that almost every illustrator wants to have a shot a drawing for, including big names such as Salvador Dali. I’m especially drawn to dark, rather creepy children’s book illustrations and my favourites amongst the exhibition were those by Barry Moser and Arthur Rackman.
Whether you are interested in Alice in Wonderland specifically, illustrating, children’s books, writing or just literature in general, I would highly recommend a visit to the British Library to see the exhibition yourself. It’s running until the 17th April and so there is plenty of time still left. The only advice I would give is to try and avoid visiting on a weekend if possible as I imagine it might be infuriatingly cramped. Also, think carefully about what you wear as I turned up realising that I had completely inadvertently dressed myself rather like Alice! Oh, and one more thing: Don’t visit the Alice in Wonderland pop up shop unless you have bags of self-control. Luckily I managed to escape with only two tiny badges. Had I not been a penniless students I would have left bankrupt.