The Harry Ransom Center, a humanities research library and museum at The University of Texas at Austin, presents the exhibition Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to mark the 150th anniversary of the publication of Lewis Carroll’s classic work. The exhibition runs through July 6, 2015.
Featuring more than 200 items, the exhibition is drawn almost entirely from the Ransom Center’s collections of art, photography, rare books, performing arts, film and manuscripts. The exhibition features two significant “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” collections at the Ransom Center: the Warren Weaver collection and the Byron W. and Susan R. Sewell collection. The exhibition will also highlight other holdings related to Lewis Carroll and his Alice stories, including letters, hand-drawn illustrations and photographs. The exhibition brings to life the history of the book and reveals how “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” has captured our collective imagination for 150 years and how Carroll’s creation has been transformed by artists, translators and filmmakers.
The Englishman who became famous as Lewis Carroll was born Charles Lutwidge Dodgson in 1832. Dodgson, a mathematician at the University of Oxford, first met Alice Liddell (1852–1934), the daughter of Dodgson’s Oxford dean Henry Liddell, in 1856. An avid amateur photographer, Dodgson photographed Alice and her siblings, as well as other children, his own family, colleagues, artists, intellectuals and celebrities of his time.
Dodgson, who had no children of his own, spent time with the Liddell children, telling stories, making puzzles and going on outings. On one of these outings, in July 1862, Dodgson began the story that became “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” In addition to Alice, the story contains references to her sisters Edith (the Eaglet) and Lorina, called Ina (the Lory).
Encouraged by friends, Dodgson developed the story into a book and funded its publication. He used the pseudonym Lewis Carroll in the interest of maintaining his privacy and distance from his professional work.
“‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ has never been out of print during its 150 years of existence,” said Danielle Brune Sigler, the Ransom Center’s associate director for research and programs and exhibition curator. “Though ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ is very much a product of Victorian England, the book continues to appeal to modern readers around the world. ‘Alice’ is one of those books that you enjoy reading as a child but is even more wonderful when you return to it as an adult and discover all of its secrets — the puns, riddles and satire that you missed the first time around. This exhibition will delight fans of ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ and introduce others to a work that is widely known but not always closely read.”
The exhibition is organized thematically, with sections that cover topics such as the history and context of Carroll’s creation of “Alice”; a timeline highlighting changes in illustration of the book over time; translations of the novel from around the world; and Alice as interpreted by artists and filmmakers.
Highlights in the exhibition include original photographs made by Carroll, including one of Liddell and her sisters; a rare copy of the first printed edition of the book; original manuscripts by illustrator John Tenniel and Carroll; a photograph of Liddell as a young woman by Julia Margaret Cameron; illustrations by Salvador Dalí and five photographs reimagining “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by contemporary artist Abelardo Morell.
The exhibition will also feature interactive sections designed for young visitors, including a reading nook, an area for a pretend tea party and an activity center with math and word puzzles. A White Rabbit stamp card encourages visitors to seek out items in each section of the exhibition. Completed stamp cards can be exchanged for a Wonderland activity guide.
“Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” will be on view in the Ransom Center Galleries on Mondays through Fridays from 10 AM to 5 PM, with extended Thursday hours until 7 PM. On Saturdays and Sundays the galleries are open from 12 NOON to 5 PM. The exhibition is free and open to the public.
Photo: View of the “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” exhibition. Photo by Pete Smith.