Hello, Pensievers! Allow us here in Dubledore’s cabinet to apologize once again for the lack of episodes as of late. Wouldn’t you know that we have, like, responsibilities outside of the internet? Yeah, it’s true. To prove it, this post was actually originally hand-written in my notebook during a math lecture. Don’t worry! I’m doing pretty poorly in the class anyway.
What I wanted to talk with you about today is the Harry Potter Exhibition. Remember that display of movie props and costumes that was traversing the globe? Well I managed to go see it in New York City this weekend and It. Was. Incredible. I had arranged to meet up with a couple friends from the fandom and we had no plans for the day. As we wandered the streets of Lower Manhattan, we met a friendly Gryffindor who gave us coupons for $5 off the admissions fee and directions to the Exhibition in Discovery Times Square. As Harry Potter was what allowed the three of us to meet in the first place, we jumped at the opportunity to submerge ourselves in this universe for the afternoon.
Unfortunately there was no photography or video recording allowed inside the exhibition so you’ll just have to make do with my words.
The adventure began with a group picture, in which my friend Alex refused a scarf as they didn’t have her house, Hufflepuff. We were then ushered into a room with posters for the eight Harry Potter films on the wall. The lights dimmed and the posters proved to not be posters at all, but individual screens showing video and sound clips from the movies. Then they went blank again and we were left in the dark. My friends and I were just starting to wonder if that was the whole “Exhibition” when a wall lifted and we heard an awful, obviously fake English accent beckon us onward to the Sorting.
The terrible accent belonged to a young man holding one of those model Sorting Hats that shout out the name of a Hogwarts house when you press a button. After sorting a few of the younger kids, the hat got stuck and would only “sort” people into Gryffindor. The repeated shouts of “Better be… GRYFFINDOR!” and the obvious frustration of the young man followed us into the next room. Here is where the magic truly began.
We entered a huge gallery full of costumes, props, and informational plaques all about the filming of the movies and the Wizarding World. We could not see where the exhibit ended as there were so many rooms snaking around each other, deep into the building. We commented on how much taller Evanna Lynch seemed in real life than her costumes would have it appear, admired the texture of Neville’s Mimbulus Mimbletonia, and examined in detail the contents of Ron’s bedside table.
There was so much in the movies that we missed out on! For instance, did you know that the message board in Gryffindor common room is covered with flyers for the Hogwarts art club and warrants for people who hadn’t returned library books? It seems like there was a student named Winkey Crockett who didn’t return books, went on the Hogsmeade trips, joined all of the clubs, and would seemingly put his/her name on any list? I didn’t either. We even found the name on a plaque of Slytherin Quidditch players dated 1940. There seems to be some odd magic going on there….
One thing that I absolutely loved about this exhibition was how you could literally spend hours examining props that you thought you knew better than the back of your hand but would still find surprises. Some of them were hilarious like Harry’s book, “Quidditch Teams of Britain and Ireland” being called “Quidditch Teams of England and Ireland.” Or Minerva McGonagall’s apparent inability to spell “attached” and “Titillandus” correctly in school letters. Others were more subtle like the faint “Deathly Hallows” sign etched into the Horcrux ring or the photographs of Gilderoy Lockhart that got sillier and sillier as you continued to wander through the rooms. Lockhart on a broom, Lockhart in a billowing, black cape, Lockhart dressed in early aviation gear, a painting of Lockhart painting a painting of Lockhart.
I seriously enjoyed the classroom portion. It felt like I had left the noisy muggle world of the city above and was at Hogwarts with two of my close friends, rushing to make our classes on time. We could examine Professor Trelawney’s attic room and tea cups. Make fun of Professor Slughorn’s ridiculous mortarboard and exclaim over the creepy potions ingredients. Or even try to decipher the crazy hand-writing in Severus Snape’s old potions textbook. (I made out the word “alcohol” and a very large “NO!”) In fact, the girls I was with and I may have come across as so enthusiastic that we were seen as the obnoxious teenage hoodlums making fun of children’s stories but in fact it was the complete opposite. There was nothing ironic about our excitement. It was pure and fun and contagious. Workers there smiled slightly bemusedly at how much we knew and some other patrons would stop and listen to random facts we had to offer about the filming. Did you know that Daniel Radcliffe broke so many wands that they just started giving him rubber ones!?!?! Everything from the Yule Ball gallery to the creepy corridors full of Dementors, Death Eaters, and dark objects made us grin at the memories we had from growing up with this series.
I don’t think that I could recommend this experience enough. It’s almost a necessity for anyone who counts themselves as a Harry Potter fan. If you’re like me and get tired of museum exhibits quickly, I can assure you that this was not a problem. There are a few interactive things for visitors to do. You can sit in the chair in Hagrid’s hut. You’re encouraged to pull up a Mandrake and hear it scream. (If you’re like my friend Kara you can attempt to pull all of them up at the same time and make everyone in the vicinity flinch at the noise.) There’s even Quidditch! Not full on Quidditch but goal posts you can throw Quaffles into, almost like the sort of basketball game you would find at a fair or amusement park. And you get a satisfying “ding!” when the ball goes in. I’m going to take this opportunity now to brag to the world that I scored on every single shot I took, even when I went with a Quaffle in each hand. This exhibition offers something for everyone and each room will bring enjoyment. It’s cheap. It’s fun. And it’s nostalgic. I even found myself loving Umbridge’s office like never before despite Alex saying “For $20 they should be able to make the cat plates move.” If the Harry Potter Exhibition can make me feel sentimental about a character I have a personal literary vendetta against, imagine what surprises could be waiting for you?