The Cottingley Fairies: A Study in Deception, Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery, Leeds, 18 June 2021-17 November 2022

We’ve been eagerly anticipating this exhibition for a while! The Cottingley Fairies: A Study in Deception, Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery, Leeds, 18 June 2021-17 November 2022.

It is curated by Dr Merrick Burrow, who gave a fascinating plenary on the topic at OGOM’s recent Ill Met by Moonlight Gothic Fairies conference. Dr Sam George, too, has long been interested in the topic and her own research and her conference plenary draws on the story. The exhibition website says:

Just over one hundred years ago Sir Arthur Conan Doyle published the Cottingley fairies photographs in “The Strand Magazine”.

But how did the literary genius behind the detective mastermind Sherlock Holmes get fooled by fake fairies?

Now, you can discover the secrets behind the greatest hoax of the twentieth century in person or online!

Visit the Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery to explore items from the University of Leeds Special Collections, which holds nearly all of the most important documents and artefacts relating to the Cottingley fairies. 

There are images from the exhibition here.

This article by Henry Irving, ‘Photographing Fairies’, describes Dr Alice Sage’s (of Goldsmiths, University of London) winning Pamela Cox Public History Prize project. Dr Sage says:

This exhibition and engagement project was inspired by the 100th anniversary of the publication of the Cottingley Fairy Photographs in December 1920. This infamous hoax by Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths produced the original viral selfies — photos of fairies which convinced many people, including Arthur Conan Doyle, of the existence of supernatural life, but also sparked fierce debate about the agency and ability of girls.

I mention the Cottingley photos in my PhD thesis — Fairies, Fathers and Fantasies of Childhood in London 1915–30 — but felt there was potential to create a public history project around them; so I developed an exhibition proposal as a placement funded by CHASE Doctoral Training Partnership.

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