Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling Magically Appear in New York

photo by Dvorah Nelson


By Dvorah Nelson

Perhaps the words painted on the wall of the New-York Historical Society’s exhibit say it all:

“There was a lot more to magic, as Harry quickly found out, than waving your wand and saying a few funny words.”

Harry Potter: A History of Magic showcases much more than what initially meets the eye. The maze of hallways and corridors detail the intricate history and magic behind Harry Potter, with interactive art and original works dating back to 1400 BC. The purposeful design is easy for adults and children to spend hours absorbing, as they envelop themselves in the creativity of the world created by J.K Rowling.

Following the British Library’s successful year-long run of the exhibit, the New-York Historical Society is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Harry Potter release in the U.S with “Harry Potter: A history of Magic.” The exhibit captures “the traditions of folklore and magic at the heart of the harry potter stories,” said Jamie Andrews, head of culture and learning at the British Library.

Andrews praised the collaboration and opening, saying “We both believe in using collections from the past to tell new stories to new audiences.”

The Harry Potter books have been translated into 80 languages and have sold over 500 million copies worldwide. The beloved series has expanded into plays, movies, and musicals. “Whether you’re an adult or child, you get [Harry Potter],” said Roberta Olson, curator of drawings at the New-York Historical Society. “It has something for everyone.”

The exhibit aims to appeal to this wide range of fans with workshops, classes, meetups, open mics and more.

As one walks down corridors, portraits line the high walls and books float above, lending to a feeling of walking through the Hogwarts’ magical library. The herbology room brings together the history of medicine with its roots in witchcraft. It does that via what’s said to be the first book of medicine written in English, which was acquired and then sold in the United States by a man accused of witchcraft.

On a wall, J.K Rowling’s original sketches of Pomona Sprouts, head of Herbology at Hogwarts, can be seen on small pieces of paper or napkins. They bring to mind J.K Rowling in her writing hours, scribbling notes on whatever sat beneath her eyes.

The oldest items can be found in the room of divination, with dark maroon walls and painted bookshelves. The oracle bones from 1600-1046 BCE were used in ancient China to answer questions about “a king’s toothache [and] royal pregnancies.”

Moving along, a large painting by famous artist John James Audubon greets a visitor. Old original sketches of owls are there also, and a J.K Rowling manuscript with its blank spaces for dialogue to be filled in, and crossed-out lines and arrows pointing to where writing should be moved.

Exiting the exhibit, the impact of harry potter on readers can be seen and felt, with copies of book editions in some of the eighty languages there to be taken in by the eyes and emotions.

Items at the exhibit came from various locations, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Museum of Natural History, Yale University, the Museum of Witchcraft, as well as the British Library and the New-York Historical Society’s own collections.

The exhibit will run through January 27, 2019. Tickets run from $13-21 and are purchasable at harrypotter.nyhistory.org.

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