Muggles and wizards alike can celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the U.S. publication of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s stone by examining a plethora of magical artifacts at the New York Historical Society’s new exhibition Harry Potter: A History of Magic. While walking through rooms dedicated to the seven subjects taught at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry – Potions, Herbology, Charms, Divination, Astronomy, Defense Against the Dark Arts, and Care of Magical Creatures – visitors will be immersed in the history of magical folklore and tradition that inspired and informed the world of the Harry Potter series. This exhibition features a spellbinding collection mystical tools, rare books and other items from around the world and as far back in time as 700 C.E. There are numerous pieces of original artwork by illustrators who have worked on the Harry Potter series over the years, and exclusive sketches and documents from author J.K Rowling herself. Many items in the exhibit are on display for the first time.
“A History of Magic” originated at the British Library in England where it became the library’s most successful exhibition. Items featured in this New York iteration come from the collections of the British Library and New York Historical Society as well as other UK institutions like the Museum of Witchcraft and other American institutions such as the Wellcome Collection, the American Museum of Natural History, and the New York Botanical Garden. To compliment the exhibition, which runs until January 27, 2019, the New York Historical Society will host a variety of related events including trivia nights, art workshops, creative writing classes, social meet-ups, open mics, book clubs, and engaging courses as well as special conversations with Potter illustrators Mary GrandPré and Brian Selznick. The exhibition will also be complimented by a companion book published by Scholastic. Harry Potter: A History of Magic, the book, will delve into the history of the more than 150 items displayed in the exhibition. For more in-depth content on the items while walking through the exhibition, visitors can opt to listen to a free Audible guide narrated by actress Natalie Dormer.
The exhibition is open to the public now and timed entry tickets can be purchased here. At a press preview on Thursday, Untapped Cities got to walk through A History of Magic with Roberta Olson, Curator of Drawings at the New York Historical Society and Alexander Lock, Curator of Modern Archives and Manuscripts at British Library, who provided enthusiastic and knowledgeable insight into some of the exhibition’s most notable pieces. Here is a list of 15 of our favorite artifacts:
15. Original Sketches and Documents from J.K. Rowling
Scattered throughout the exhibit are hand drawn sketches created by author J.K. Rowling while in the process of writing the Harry Potter series. In the first section of the exhibit you will find the above annotated sketch of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry from Rowling’s personal collection. This sketch was sent to her editor to show how Rowling imagined the layout of the school. Rowling emphasized the location of the Whomping Willow and even drew in the giant quid that lives in the lake. The exhibit also contains multiple detailed sketches that Rowling drew of her characters, including nearly-headless Nick, and a heart-warming sketch of how the author envisioned the scene of Hagrid, Dumbledore and Mcgonagall dropping Harry off at the Dursleys.
Along with Rowling’s drawings, there are multiple pieces of writing and outlines she created while putting the books together which give visitors a peek into to her creative process. Rowling worked in different mediums as she wrote so there are examples of typewritten and handwritten pages. Documents featured in the exhibition also include a letter from her editor on the subject of changing the title of the first book from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, for the U.S. publication.