Sheet music for the 1922 film version of Oliver Twist, featuring an illustration of child star Jackie Coogan as Oliver.

University celebrates Dickens’ bicentenary

The University of Exeter is marking the bicentenary of Charles Dickens’ birth, with an exhibition exploring his influence on British culture.

Rare items from the University’s collections, including illustrations and excerpts from the original Victorian magazine publications of Dickens’ novels, are now on display in an exhibition curated by students.

The exhibition is free and open to all at The Bill Douglas Centre for the History of Cinema and Popular Culture until 23 March.

The University of Exeter has a wide range of Dickens material in its archives and rare books collections and in the holdings of The Bill Douglas Centre.

The Bill Douglas Centre collections feature artefacts relating to the many Dickens film adaptations, including early film adaptations of David Copperfield and Oliver Twist and also moving image material from Dickens’ own lifetime, such as lantern slides depicting scenes for A Christmas Carol.

The Bill Douglas centre’s pre-cinema collection also features in a film by the BFI to mark the bicentenary, linking pre-cinematic artefacts to Dickens’ own world.

Three English students, who have recently completed a module on Dickens, have worked with University staff to organise the exhibition. They were led by Anna Langdon, a second year student who is a regular volunteer at The Bill Douglas Centre. Anna said: “It was fascinating choosing such a variety of objects from both collections to create the display; the objects help us understand the impact that Dickens’ work has had on audiences over such a long period.”

Director of the Bill Douglas Centre Phil Wickham said: “It has been wonderful to work with such an enthusiastic group of students to put together an exhibition that we think everyone will enjoy. Dickens’ influence on English literature and on British society is immense and his characters and stories still resonate in our culture.

“Dickens was fascinated by pre-cinema and the idea of moving images as entertainment. In fact, there are some who argue that Dickens had in his mind the ‘idea’ of cinema way before its invention. We hold in our collections many of the pre-cinema artefacts, such as magic lanterns, which captivated Dickens.”

Please visit the Special Collections website to find out more

Date: 7 February 2012