James and Sophie ready for the exhibition.
James and Sophie ready for the exhibition.
Photograph: Nils Jorgensen/REX/Shutterstock.
Photograph: Nils Jorgensen/REX/Shutterstock.
The entrance to the British Library's exhibition.
The entrance to the British Library's exhibition.
The entrance to the British Library’s exhibition, Harry Potter: A History of Magic © JKR/Pottermore Ltd.™ Warner Bros.
The entrance to the British Library’s exhibition, Harry Potter: A History of Magic © JKR/Pottermore Ltd.™ Warner Bros.

Harry Potter: A History of Magic, The British Library, London

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Kids in Museums volunteer Sarah Yeneralski reviews the mesmerising Harry Potter exhibition, for the younger and older fans. 

My two children are both massive Harry Potter fans, so after seeing information on the BBC about this exhibition, we had to see it for ourselves.

I was slightly apprehensive about whether an exhibition at the British Library would be the place to take two noisy Harry Potter fans.

I need not have been worried. As we joined the queue for the 11.00am opening on the cold Sunday morning, I noticed that many of its younger clientele were dressed in the cloaks and scarves of the famous houses of Hogwarts: Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff, and Ravenclaw. It seemed that this exhibition was not just for the older Harry Potter fans!

From the moment that we entered the exhibition, James (10) and Sophie (7) were captivated by the magical world created by JK Rowling, which has been replicated in the British Library to great effect.

The exhibition is to mark 20 years since the first publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and it marries effectively the imaginary world created by JK Rowling, with folklore and mythology from around the world.

Alongside original writings and exquisite drawings by JK Rowling, are sumptuous illustrations by Jim Kay, which truly bring alive the magical world of Harry Potter.

Also included are exhibits gathered from many museums around the world which have inspired the world of wizardry which JK Rowling created.

One of our favourites was the exhibit of the “merperson” which was donated to the British Museum in 1942 and could possibly have inspired the merpeople who featured so memorably in The Goblet of Fire.

I also made a mental note to visit the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic, in Boscastle, the next time I visit Devon, as it had donated many intriguing exhibits.

The exhibition was divided into different sections according to magical theme. The Charms room captured Sophie’s imagination straight away when she spotted the elusive snitch which darted about the walls.

The Divination room also proved popular, especially the chance to indulge in your own tarot reading.

I found the exhibition to be very interactive; visitors were encouraged to touch the replicas sphinx which was a welcome message as I often find that little hands (and big hands) cry out for that sensory experience which can sometimes be denied in a more traditional offering.

Overall, I found that Harry Potter: A History of Magic had something for everyone. Sophie was free to roam and explore the more tactile exhibits whilst James took the time to read about the Care of Magical Creatures which he really enjoyed.

I really found JK Rowling’s drawings of Diagon Alley absolutely fascinating as the attention to detail really brought home to me just what an incredible world JK Rowling has created. 

The exhibition will delight Harry Potter fans of all ages and is sure to inspire many young readers to again indulge in this magical world.

Harry Potter: A History of Magic is open until 28 Feb 2018. 

Tickets: (limited availability) Children under 4: free, Children 5-17: £8, Student: £8, Adult: £16

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