Harry Potter: A History of Magic, British Library

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending a private viewing of the new Harry Potter exhibition at the British Library with ambassadors and supporters of Lumos, a charity founded and financed by JK Rowling that works to help the millions of children around the world currently living in institutions find their way back to their families and a real home. It’s a fantastic charity and one that I’m glad to be associated with. It’s obviously not on the same scale but I do occasionally wonder what would have happened to my niece had my mum and I not made the decision to take her in when we did – it must be awful not to know where a member of your own family has ended up.

We were also lucky enough to be in the company of some of the stars of Harry Potter and I admit to having a major fangirl moment over meeting the newest Star Trek captain Jason Isaacs, Newt Scamander himself Eddie Redmayne and for a comic book movie nerd like myself the newest iteration of the Flash the incredible Ezra Miller who is also back in the second Fantastic Beasts movie – how remains to be seen but I am here for it!

The exhibition itself however is a celebration of twenty whole years of the boy who lived incorporating both snippets of Rowling’s process while writing the books but also real world artefacts that make you wonder if what she has written is truly fiction after all.

Entering the basement of the library is much like delving into Hogwarts itself with each room themed on a different Hogwarts student. Despite the majority of the items being safely stored behind glass cases (for obvious reasons) it’s a very hands on exhibit with technology replacing magic for us mere muggles.

During the speeches at the beginning of the evening we were encouraged to look out for some artefacts of great importance which I noted down and turned into a scavenger hunt. I’ve listed them here in case you wish to do the same yourself:

  • The Battersea Cauldron
  • Nicholas Flamel’s tombstone
  • Olga Hunt’s broomstick
  • An invisibility cloak
  • Da Vinci’s notebook
  • A “real” mermaid
  • And the oldest item in the exhibit – an ancient Chinese oracle bone

You can see the amount of research and detail the author (and indeed the curator of the exhibit) put into the creation of this magical world. But for an aspiring writer such as myself the gems of the exhibit are those from Rowling’s private collection – a deleted scene from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, drawings of how she envisioned the characters and an insight into her planning process. If you’re a fan of the books it is an incredibly intimate peek into the world that captured our hearts and if you’re not each and every item is fascinating in its own right.

The exhibition runs until the end of February 2018 and costs just £16 per adult, £8 for children/students and is free for members. And if you can’t make it along to the library in person you can purchase the official book of the exhibition in their online store here.

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