“Down the Rabbit Hole,” an exhibition that opened at the Rosenbach Museum and Library on October 14th and will run until May 15th, takes the haphazard nature of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and breaks it down for you. Like a hotel party, the exhibition is split into different rooms, none of which have drinking games, but all of which have artifacts from the 1920s when the novel was written.
This month, when hundreds of Penn students shuffle up and down Locust in suits looking for the perfect internship, wondering if they chose the right major, if they chose the right classes, the right friends or right thing to eat for breakfast, we might feel like we’re falling even faster than Alice down the rabbit hole.
Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
Even though Alice in Wonderland appears to be a nonsensical book for children, its pages have meaning for a Penn student who begins to realize that even though Locust Walk follows a straight (albeit bumpy) path, adult life may not be as straightforward. Maybe college is the exact right time to embrace some nonsense.
Room One: Wonderland Rules: Celebrating the 150th Anniversary
The first room breaks the news that (spoiler alert) there was no Lewis Carroll. It was the pen name of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, a British guy who liked to befriend pre–adolescent girls and write stories about them. Dodgson’s fascination with six–year–old Alice Liddell inspired Alice in Wonderland and its sequel, Through the Looking Glass. The Rosenbach’s collection of drawings and photographs takes everything you saw in the Disney film and throws it out the window. Pencil sketches prove that the rabbit was anything but a cute, animated bunny with a pocket watch and the original Alice was not blonde.
Room Two: Alice in Phillyland
This is where you learn that Alice in Wonderland was a really big fucking deal here in Philly. A.S.W. Rosenbach, a renowned literary collector from Philly and the namesake of the museum, bought the original manuscript, originally titled Alice’s Adventures Under Ground, from Alice herself for $77,000. In comparison, Disney spent $50 million on Johnny Depp to play the Mad Hatter in the 2010 remake. In 1928, though, $77,000 was a legendary auction price. Room Two celebrates the little–known connection between Alice in Wonderland and Philadelphia. This room is an opportunity to learn more about the world–famous man who lived on Delancey and brought incredible treasures to our city!
Room Three: Why is a Raven like a Writing Desk?
Although we promised no drinking games, this room could definitely spark some ideas. From a chessboard to a station where you get to pen your own story (strictly backwards of course), at first glance, Room Three seems like a child’s playroom. However, in addition to being the world’s creepiest babysitter, Charles Dodgson was also a genius. A working mathematician, Dodgson had riddles and references in Alice and Wonderland that are often more complex than they appear. In Room Three, you can take a crack at Dodgson’s favorite puzzles and mind games. Curious about the answer to the Mad Hatter’s famous riddle, “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” Visit the exhibit to find out.
Don’t miss out on the Rosenbach’s “Down the Rabbit Hole” exhibit and the chance to be a kid again, even if it's only for an afternoon. Too often, the stress of OCR or the dullness of our calc textbook causes us forget how enjoyable reading can be.
“And what is the use of a book," thought Alice, "without pictures or conversation?"
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Phone: (215) 732–1600
Tuesday and Friday: Noon—5 p.m.
Wednesday and Thursday: Noon—8 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday: Noon—6 p.m.
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