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REVIEW: Harry Potter: A History of Magic

The fascinating exhibit is on display at the New-York Historical Society until January 27, 2019.

Harry Potter fans who will be in New York City between now and January 27, 2019, should hop a broomstick and fly immediately to the New-York Historical Society to view the exhibit called Harry Potter: A History of Magic. The show combines centuries-old magical objects, manuscripts, and rare books with original material from J.K. Rowling’s own archives and the U.S. publisher of the Potter series.

history of magic
  • Photo Credit: New-York Historical Society

Cleverly designed around the various classes Harry and his fellow students took at Hogwarts, the exhibit dedicates a room to each subject: Potions, Herbology, Charms, Astronomy, Divination, Defense Against the Dark Arts, Care of Magical Creatures, Translations, and Games. Each room contains historical items from the collections of the British Library, the New-York Historical Society, and a variety of museums. The Potions room, for example, features a real witch’s cauldron coated in some black tarry substance. It reportedly exploded when several 20th-century Cornish witches were cooking up a magical potion. (The witches survived.) 

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Also on display throughout the exhibit: 

  • The tombstone of alchemist Nicolas Flamel (1340-1418), reputed discoverer of the philosopher’s stone, which supposedly turns base metals into gold and extends life indefinitely. When the grave was exhumed, Flamel’s body was not there...and was never found. Some people say that means he is still alive. 
  • An 18th-century Ethiopian charm to turn a man into a lion. 
  • Apothecary jars from the 17th century, labeled in the Latin for “crabs eyes” and “dragon’s blood.” 
  • A 1489 treatise whose illustrations were widely reproduced and helped shape popular perceptions of witches. One drawing was labeled “Two elderly women placing a snake and a cockerel into a cauldron in order to produce a rainstorm.” 
  • A drawing by J.K. Rowling herself showing Dumbledore and Hagrid delivering infant Harry to the Dursleys.  
  • And dozens of other fascinating objects. 
harry potter exhibit

Mary GrandPré’s illustrations, created for Scholastic’s original editions of the novels, are on view to the public for the first time, as well as costumes and set models from the award-winning play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The museum requires timed-entry tickets, which means that the rooms never become overcrowded. Ticket prices range from $6 for children up to $21 for adults, with discounts being offered for seniors and students. All in all, it's a magical experience! 

Published on 28 Nov 2018

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