Most people who meet me will before long find out I am a quite the Potterhead, aka a big fan of the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling, the eight films that followed and everything about the wonderful Wizarding World she created. I even made part of my trip to Edinburgh last autumn a Harry Potter tour of the city (read about that here). So it seemed inevitable I would make the effort to go to the British Library in London and the fantastic exhibition ‘Harry Potter: A History of Magic.’
My eldest sister also loves the books and the films, so together we made the trip, feeling very excited about the exhibition (and to see each other). I didn’t know much about it, other than what I had seen on the BBC documentary that aired before it opened and that there would be items from J.K. Rowling’s personal archive. Safe to say, I wasn’t disappointed!
The exhibition, which opened in November (I think) and ends on 28th February, has been incredibly popular and received rave reviews from The Telegraph and Londonist. Most importantly, the fans seem to love it too. A History of Magic is a celebration of the 20th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and unveils rare books, manuscripts and magical objects from the British Library’s collection and from around the country and farther afield. It captures the traditions of folklore and magic that are at the heart of the stories and inspired Rowling’s work, and there are original drafts and drawings from Rowling and illustrator Jim Kay.
The exhibition was split into the subjects Harry studies at Hogwarts; Potions, Alchemy (he didn’t study alchemy, but Rowling put it as a subject for students at NEWT level. I like to think when Hermione returned to finish her seventh year she studied alchemy), Herbology, Charms, Astronomy, Divination, Defence Against the Dark Arts and Care of Magical Creatures. Each subject had amazing books, illustrations, interactive games and items connected to magic and folklore. There was loads of detail and a lot of reading was required, but I didn’t want to miss anything!
Highlights included the 16th century Ripley Scroll that explains how to create an actual Philosopher’s Stone (sulphur, mercury and dragons are very important!) and the amazing artwork by Jim Kay; his sketches of Diagon Alley were amazing, I could have easily looked at them all day. And, of course, the original drafts from J.K. Rowling were amazing to see. Fudge was originally a muggle Prime Minister, Voldemort was a red-eyed dwarf and Vernon Dursley was involved with the muggle ministry! Her sketches of some characters were brilliant too, I especially loved her one of the Dursley’s.
The interactive bits were great fun – you could try making a potion and get your future read with cards. Can’t remember mine but it seemed to be positive!
The decoration, for want of a better word, of the exhibition was great too – flying keys hanging from the ceiling, the snitch flying about, crystal balls and floating teacups on saucers! Everything had a very Hogwarts-y feel to it, which added to my enjoyment of it.
One aspect that surprised me was how few young children were there – I expected school kids getting in the way, but was pleasantly surprised it was mostly adults. Though busy, I felt like I didn’t miss anything because someone was in the way, though my sister and I did end up going against the flow a few times.
An amazing exhibition, I would recommend Harry Potter: A History of Magic to any Potter fan who likes the books particularly. Film fans might have gotten a little confused. I would suggest trying to get a ticket before it ends (all weekends have sold out) though there is an accompanying book with all the information in it too. I would also just suggest going to the British Library anyway; it’s a fascinating place!
Have you been to the History of Magic exhibition? Or any other Harry Potter attractions? Let me know your thoughts via social media or in the comments below. And sorry for the slightly blurry pictures!