Get Ready, Muggles! A Harry Potter Exhibition Will Celebrate the Books’ 20th Anniversary on Two Continents

The show will cross the pond after an upcoming stint at the British Library.

Harry Potter author JK Rowling. Courtesy of Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.
Harry Potter author JK Rowling. Courtesy of Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

Twenty years after J.K. Rowling introduced Americans to Harry Potter, the author’s beloved book series will get the museum treatment at the New-York Historical Society. The exhibition, “Harry Potter: A History of Magic,” will cross the Atlantic after an upcoming five-month stint at the British Library in London (October 20, 2017–February 28, 2018).

“The Harry Potter series has turned a generation into avid readers, and they’re sure to be enchanted by this fascinating exploration of magical traditions and myths from across the world, which make the Harry Potter series so rich and exciting,” said NYHS president and CEO Louise Mirrer in a statement, noting that the museum is looking forward to bringing “these incredible treasures from the British Library to a whole new audience.”

Originally published in the UK by Bloomsbury back in 1997, the first book in the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (rebranded as the Sorcerer’s Stone for American audiences) crossed the pond a year later, thanks to Scholastic.

A phoenix, a magical creature featured in the Harry Potter series. Courtesy of the New-York Historical Society.

A phoenix, a magical creature featured in the Harry Potter series. Courtesy of the New-York Historical Society.

The show will feature original drafts and illustrations by Rowling, whose drawings appear in The Tales of Beedle the Bard, a book of children’s stories that features prominently in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. (Rowling released a limited-edition run of seven handwritten copies of The Tales and gave them to people who helped her with the first Potter book.) In addition to works by illustrator Jim Kay, the British Library will showcase manuscripts from its collection related to the magical creatures and objects referenced throughout the series, such as a massive 16th–century Ripley Scroll that explains how to create a Philosopher’s Stone.

The US edition will add objects connected to the American publication, which was illustrated by Mary Grandpré. British literary phenomena may seem an odd fit for an institution dedicated to the history of New York, but the press release promises there will also be “US-specific artifacts from New-York Historical’s collection.”

One J.K. Rowling's hand-illustrated copies of The Tales of Beedle the Bard. Courtesy of Sotheby's London.

One J.K. Rowling’s hand-illustrated copies of The Tales of Beedle the Bard. Courtesy of Sotheby’s London.

Ahead of the show’s opening at the British Library, fans of the series have already purchased 25,000 tickets, the most advance sales in the institution’s history. Expected demand is so high that tickets will only be available for purchase online and in advance, with no box office or phone sales.

“We are so excited to be taking a major exhibition to New York for the very first time,” said Jamie Andrews, the British Library’s head of culture and learning. “‘Harry Potter: A History of Magic’ promises to be a stunning exhibition, capturing the traditions of folklore and magic across the world, which are at the heart of the Harry Potter stories.”

Ron Weasley's Howler, a prop from the film <em>Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets</em>. Courtesy of Prop Shop.

Ron Weasley’s Howler, a prop from the film Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Courtesy of Prop Shop.

On the day of the show’s UK opening, Scholastic and Bloomsbury will both publish a book dedicated to the exhibition, titled Harry Potter: A Journey Through a History of Magic. A separate coffee table book, Harry Potter: A History of Magic, will be released by Scholastic to accompany the opening of the US exhibition.

It will be a big year for Harry Potter in New York, as the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is set to open on Broadway on April 22. Can’t wait until 2018 to satiate your Harry Potter cravings? London and Los Angeles movie memorabilia outlet Prop Store is selling Harry Potter’s Hogwarts letter and Ron Weasley’s howler, among other movie props, as its September 26 auction at BFI IMAX, Waterloo, London.


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