If you know a Potter fan, it’s worth booking tickets to the British Library’s new exhibition, Harry Potter: A History of Magic. We went along to the press preview yesterday and had a truly magical time!
While it’s a fabulous day out for Harry Potter enthusiasts, it’s also a very clever exhibition in its own right, and features numerous precious objects from the Library’s archives which you might not normally have a chance to see. Someone has clearly worked hard behind the scenes to relate treasures from their storage to the themes of the books.
Each room within the exhibition relates to a different school subject taught to Harry at Hogwarts, from herbology to care of magical creatures, and uses items from the Library and borrowed from other institutions to relate them to real life stories. For example, the room about divination (aka predicting the future) has exquisite crystal balls used by ‘real’ witches and old tarot cards. Also featured in this room is the oldest item in the British Library’s whole collection – inscribed bones from 1192BC China, which were used to make predictions.
Other gems include the 6m long Ridley Scroll, from the 1500s, which includes the ‘recipe’ to make a Philosopher’s Stone, which was believed to hold the key to eternal life. Fans of JK Rowling’s stories will know it forms the central plot of the very first novel. Another juicy addition for Potter-heads is the real gravestone from Nicholas Flamel’s final resting place – he was a real man with supposed connections to the Philosopher’s Stone, although unlike the character in the books, died in 1418.
There are a great many gorgeous old books, packed with detailed illustrations of plants, potions and animals both real and imagined. One highlight of the collection is the stunning celestial globe (in the astronomy room, naturally) from 1693 which is surrounded by touch screens which allow you to turn it and see the stars the whole way round.
There are fascinating artefacts used by real witches, including a broom that looks straight out of the Harry Potter film sets. It belonged to a witch called Olga Hunt who used to jump around on it spooking neighbours! There are also two beautiful cauldrons, one of which apparently cracked when the witches using it tried to summon a demon.
For all of these dark additions, it’s a very family-friendly exhibition. There are lots of charming interactive touches that are great for younger visitors (or the young at heart!) including touch screens and projected animations. We enjoyed mixing a virtual potion with a clever touch screen game, as well as having our tarot read.
Tickets cost £16 adults, £8 children. British Library members go free. Running from Friday 20th October to 28th February 2018.