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Terror and Wonder

Find out how our research helped to shape the world's largest ever public exhibition of the Gothic and set new attendance records at the British Library.

Cultural engagement

The British Library drew from research by Stirling academics to help shape their major exhibition of Gothic literature and art, 'Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination'. The exhibition, the largest of its kind ever held in a public institution, drew directly from a series of Stirling research projects and papers exploring the cultural impact of the Gothic from an international perspective. Our academics also worked directly with the British library to help curate the exhibition – from selecting works for inclusion, to writing exhibit placards, conducting promotional interviews, advising on layout and educating staff. The exhibition charted the evolution and influence of the Gothic over a period of 250 years, and included rare manuscripts of Dracula and Jane Eyre alongside everything from a vampire slaying kit to an Alexander McQueen dress and Stanley Kubrick's annotated typescript for The Shining.

The overarching goals of the collaboration between the University and the British Library were to offer an exciting new interpretation of Gothic history through a major exhibition, enhance revenue streams for the British Library’s exhibition space and explore how academic research can boost cultural engagement by creating a better visitor experience.

The exhibition, the largest of its kind ever held in a public institution, drew directly from a series of Stirling research projects and papers exploring the cultural impact of the Gothic from an international perspective.

Highest attendance

'Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination' was a huge success for the British Library, exceeding target ticket sales by more than 18% and attracting almost 60,000 visitors. The show recorded the highest ever attendance for a British Library exhibit running over 16 weeks, resulting in the addition of 24 extra opening slots to satisfy visitor demand. Media outlets praised the exhibition, with Time Out listing it as one of its top 10 things to do for Halloween, and The Guardian’s four-star review stating the show "teems with arresting exhibits" and offers an "epic journey through a literary genre and its endless cultural transformations".

Terror and Wonder exceeded target ticket sales by more than 18% and recorded the highest ever attendance for a British Library exhibit running over 16 weeks.

infographic: Our research

Our research

helped shape the largest ever public exhibition of the Gothic

infographic: 59,198

59,198

visitors attended the Terror and Wonder exhibition

infographic: 8,000+

8,000+

young people took part in workshops underpinned by our research

Beyond the show floor, research into the Gothic at Stirling also reached new audiences through a series of events related to 'Terror and Wonder'. During the exhibition's 16-week run, more than 8,000 young people participated in workshops led by British Library staff, who had received training from our researchers about the history, evolution and ongoing cultural impact of the Gothic. Researchers from the University also presented their insights directly to audiences at spin-off public lectures in Strawberry Hill House and the Old Operation Theatre in London – both of which hosted Gothic exhibitions coordinated and partly curated by Stirling researchers.

The level of positive engagement across all the events highlighted how shaping exhibitions around quality, innovative research can help to present familiar subjects in a fresh way, enhance audience participation and create new opportunities to share knowledge.

"This perversely enlightening exhibition of gothic ephemera, from Sadean dresses to possessed ventriloquists, is not so much about art as it is an inquiry into the liberation of the mind."

The Guardian

Gothic relevance

A Halloween Gothic tour of Stirling, a public symposium including creative writers and collaboration with University of São Paulo academics allowed us to continue to expand our knowledge and share our findings. A Gothic film festival, an international Folk Horror event and a network workshop on magical objects will provide further opportunities to make our research relevant to a wider audience and connect our expertise in Gothic with the current cultural landscape.

Related publications

Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Townshend D (ed.) (2014) Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination. London: British Library Publishing. http://shop.bl.uk/mall/productpage.cfm/BritishLibrary/_ISBN_9780712357913/-/Terror-and-Wonder%3A-The-Gothic-Imagination-(paperback)

The Gothic World
Byron G & Townshend D (eds.) (2013) The Gothic World. Routledge Worlds. London: Routledge. http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415637442/

Its, Blobs and Things: Gothic Beings Out of Time
Edwards JD (2018) Its, Blobs and Things: Gothic Beings Out of Time. In: Edwards JD, Hoglund J (ed.). B-Movie Gothic: International Perspectives. International Perspectives, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 17-31. https://edinburghuniversitypress.com/book-b-movie-gothic-hb.html

B-Movie Gothic: International Perspectives
Edwards JD & Hoglund J (eds.) (2018) B-Movie Gothic: International Perspectives. Traditions in World Cinema. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. https://edinburghuniversitypress.com/book-b-movie-gothic-hb.html

Zombie Terrorism in an Age of Global Gothic
Edwards JD (2015) Zombie Terrorism in an Age of Global Gothic, Gothic Studies, 17 (2), pp. 12-25. https://doi.org/10.7227/GS.17.2.2

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