Alice in Wonderland at the British Library

 

 

I was excited to visit the Alice in Wonderland exhibition at the British Library because the Disney version of it used to be my favourite film when I was little.

There were three main parts to the exhibition, the first one being a display of different sized decorated mirrors. The mirrors all had a key moment of the story written on them alongside some illustrations that were all by different people. I would say this was the most child friendly part of the exhibition and as I looked around there were quite a few children that seemed to really enjoy it, running around in between the mirrors and looking at the drawings.

After this the exhibition went back in time and took us to when Alice was first created. The British Library holds the original manuscript for Alice in Wonderland and although they didn’t have it on display, they had a numerised version of it we could flick through on a tablet. This was one of the couple of interactive pieces that they had along with a small puzzle that had to be put together in order to retrace the story of Alice, and I think it would have been much better to have more of those. Although the exhibition was very interesting, most of it was kept under glass and this made it harder for viewers to engage with the content, especially younger viewers whom the exhibition should have been looking to attract. I also think the theme of Alice in Wonderland creates a lot of space for fun, games and activities and extravagant setups but the British Librabry chose to have a more adult take on it which I think is a shame.

The third part of the exhibition focused on how the tale of Alice has inspired many different authors, artists, musicians, film makers and how it has become a true classic that everyone knows. As an illustration student I enjoyed the fact that the exhibition was also really focused on Tenniel’s work for the original book and how most of the artwork inspired by Alice in Wonderland over the years has stayed very faithful to his drawings.

I do recommend visiting this exhibition as I think most people know the Disney version of the tale better than the original one and I learnt a lot of things I didn’t know about Carroll and how he came up with the story. However there might be some disappointment where one would expect to be completely swept up in the crazy, weird and colourful world of Alice only to find a more serious looking display.

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