Harry Potter: The Exhibition Report
Apr 29, 2009
This week, a number of Harry Potter fan sites were given the opportunity to preview Harry Potter: The Exhibition which opens to the general public today. TLC took part in the preview, and spoke to a number of the people behind the exhibit. This editor’s report is now online below with additional photos from the event available here.
From the moment you walk down the drafty steps into the specially-constructed exhibition space, it seems as if you are transformed into a first year Hogwarts student making your way to the castle for the first time. The experience started out with our group, dubbed “first years,” assembled before a cheery man dressed in wizards robes asking for brave volunteers to try on the storing hat. You can’t help but get into the moment and cheer along with your fellow House members when a new member is sorted into your house, in my case Ravenclaw. From there, we move through wooden doors into a small oval room with eight video screens which feature clips from the Harry Potter films. The screens fade into a small trailer with a short history of the story of Harry Potter. Suddenly, from out of nowhere it seems, the Hogwarts express pulls up beside you, beckoning you towards the first stop into the magical world.
Walking beside the Hogwarts Express truly transports you into the magical world. The steam wafts up from the side and bright headlights shine into your eyes. A tall screen showcases a life-sized version of the Fat Lady (played by actress Dawn French) attempting to break a glass only using her voice. Portraits, both stationary and moving, also greet you as you walk into the Common Room; each meticulously detailed and spaced as they would be in the Great Hall.
In the Common Room you can see Harry’s Yule Ball shoes, glasses, Hogwarts invitation, Marauder’s Map, and photo albums along with such larger set pieces as Harry’s four-poster bed. Next to the place where Harry sleeps, is Ron’s four-poster, decorated with bright orange Chudley Cannons paraphernalia on any available mirror space. I was most amazed to see a signed Chudley Cannon t-shirt among Ron’s items placed in a trunk beside his bed. These small details may have been missed by untrained eyes during the films, but being able to stand before the beds and see the warn and rickety construction of the bed, pull all of these small touches into even sharper focus. Such items as wizarding comic books set forth in display truly present to you the level of detail involved in dressing these sets.
From there, we move into the classes of Hogwarts, and first into Professor Trelawney’s cluttered Divination classroom. Walking into this section, I felt as if I was making my way to these classes along with Harry. Backdrops from the set frame each exhibit, as do, in the case of the Divination classroom, lush, heavy curtains, small puffs, tiny tables, and the mysterious orb. Upon the table, also sits a teacup. Upon peering inside, I was amazed to see that a grim could be spotted amongst the black mush of tea leaves! All the magic in the air must have been aiding my inner eye on this occasion. Trelawney’s long shawls, thick woolly socks, jeweled, and embellished clothes accompany this part of the exhibit, as does a copy of Unfogging the Future. Soon after, the mood changes as I walk into the the Potions classroom set and have Professor Snape and Professor Slughorn standing beside cauldrons bubbling away with potions. This part of the exhibit featured what could be hundreds of glass jars and bottles, each filled with various potions ingredients. From wall to wall, these glass containers littered the set, each labeled and and containing various ingredients. To the side, a small box of bezoars, the wands of Snape and Slughorn are featured, and show the the different personalities of their owner in their design. It was a delight to see that the wand of Snape was black and carved with a most intricate design at the handle, where as Slughorn’s was a tad more rounded and fit the man who it chose.
My eyes then came upon the image of one Gilderoy Lockhart as I turned into the Defense Against the Dark Arts corner of the Classroom Exhibit. Photos littered most every free space of this set, which was dominated by the painting of Mr. Lockhart paining himself, as seen in the Chamber of Secrets film. A collection of Gilderoy’s collected works sat on a table beside a pair of his most formal robes, while his dueling lesson outfit stood next to even more photos of the one-time DADA professor. Then, my eyes were soon burned with a bright pink color as I stepped over into Dolores Umbridge’s office. Painted pink stone, pink carpets, ribbons, seat cushions, curtains, bring you right into her world and greeted me with an unnatural unease. On a small table in the center of the display, a quill and parchment with the phrase “I must not tell lies” stood out in my eyes and transported me right back to that scene in Order of the Phoenix where Harry was forced to write those words into his skin. The immaculate detail seen in this area shows not only the character of Ms Umbridge, but also gave me chills as I walked past it. Turning away from the sea of pink, I then focused on a more somber display as the classroom of DADA Professor Lupin jumped back into my mind upon seeing the massive wardrobe standing before me. Next to that, the enormous (and frightful looking) jack-in-the-box boggart stood creepily at the end of the display. Here we got to see Lupin’s shabby robes and a few props from the film, including the records Lupin played during the Dementor lessons and his wand.
The final part of the classroom setting, transports you to the greenhouses where Professor Sprout’s Herbology classes take place. Here I was able to get my hands dirty, so to speak, and pull a baby mandrake out from a pot. Standing next to the stout witches costume, you see such details as the
scales on her dragon-hide gloves, embellishments on her hat and robes,
as well as the ever-important earmuffs used for pulling baby
mandrakes. This was one of the parts that I was most looking forward to
experiencing from myself, and the exhibit did not disappoint.
After my Hogwarts classes for the day were finished, I was able to walk down to the Quidditch exhibit and immerse myself in the wizarding sport. Harry’s Nimbus 2000, Draco’s Nimbus 2001, specter specks, Quidditch magazines, and broom repair kits all meet you at the door, as does the feeling that you have just walked into what would be Harry’s favorite part of the exhibit. Throughout the exhibit, you are accompanied by various clips from the film soundtracks, set to bring forth the proper mood for each exhibit
you walk past. This was no different for this portion of the tour, where music pumped me up as I attempted to toss quaffles through the hoops. The padded and vividly colored Quidditch robes of Cedric Diggory, Draco Malfoy, and Oliver Wood stand out, as does a display of various trophies, each with chiseled names of former Quidditch Captains drawing your eye each tiny detail. As I walked though, my eyes darted from each of the many artifacts and props displayed in this section. The Golden Snitch and Madam Hooch’s robes really gave me the sense that I was about to watch a live Quidditch game.
After Quidditch practice, Buckbeak greets you as you step up to Hagrid’s Hut. I could not help but want to bow in front of this magnificent creature, which was harnessed in a small paddock with large pumpkins and the costumes of the Trio, as seen in the final moments of Prisoner of Azkaban, and of the Hippogriff’s would be executioner standing beside him. Hagrid’s Hut truly draws you in with an immediate sense of warmth. A simmering cauldron on the fire bubbles away as Norbert’s egg rattles on the table. Everything here is Hagrid-size, even the tremendously comfortable chair in the corner of the room. Perfect for Hagrid, the legs of my 6’2 body still dangled a ways from the floor once I sat back in the chair to observe the many hand-crafted cages Hagrid has hanging from every available space in his hut. This vantage point also offered the best look at Hagrid’s clothes, which stood nearly as tall as the hut itself. A good two heads above me, Hagrid’s complete was simply massive. The dark eyes of the various copies of the Monster Book of Monsters stare at you as you exit the hut, glimpsing the pink umbrella that Hagrid never leaves home without.
On the other side of Hagrid’s Hut, the life-size head of Hungarian Horntail dragon, an acromantula, a baby thestral, and two large centaurs awaiting you as you walk past the Forbidden Forest. Immediately I was transported into a darker atmosphere as this lead me into the Dark Forces section of the exhibit. Dark arches lead you through into vine covered walls which first showcase two massive chess pieces from the Sorcerer’s Stone film: a rook and a knight. With them towering over me, I was instantly transported onto that chess board and felt as if any moment the knight would swipe me aside if I made a wrong move. The ruby red Sorcerer’s Stone and Flying Key also bring you through this section which then features a Slytherin House are with Tom Riddle’s robes, complete with ‘Senior Prefect’ badge, a petrified Colin Creevy, his camera, and the Horcrux diary, dripping with black ink where the basilisk fang pierced its pages. All of this is set before a massive backdrop of the stone carved face of Salazar Slytherin from inside the Chamber of Secrets.
Exiting out of this section, you are confronted with the Dark Lord himself, well, this shimmery green robes as worn by actor Ralph Fiennes at the end of Goblet of Fire. His robes, which move constantly in the air, stand next to the Riddle gravestone. Glancing up, I was simply astounded to see a Dark Mark floating above my head, looking down upon the exhibit. Inching away from the Dark Mark, a pair of Death Eater costumes, with their leathery caps and dark, ripped cloaks, usher you into a row of Ministry Wanted signs, offering rewards for Bellatrix Lestrage, Amycus Carrow, Alecto Carrow, and Fenrir Grayback. Simply terrifying in their appearance, the images of those known Death Eaters haunt you as you walk towards Voldemort’s wand and the costumes of Draco and Lucius Malfoy.
This section simply brimmed with Dark materials including Bella’s Azkaban prison costume, a life-sized Dementor that hovered against the wall, black, ghostly robes hanging off dead looking skin and a long spine that could be seen to turn into a thin tail as it curved down. Kreacher also stands next to Bella’s robes and looks very much like the book describes him. I was struck throughout this entire section how dark and, frankly, creepy it was to be walking through this exhibit. The lighting and audio that constantly adapt to the area you explore really make the entire experience so much more real.
Continuing on, brightness began to come back as we walked into the Great Hall. Massive double doors, flanked by numerous educational decrees, lead you into this most magical space. However, almost hidden, they have on display the Bloody Barron’s blood stained robes. Only seen for a split second in the film, the details of this costume are remarkable to see in person. The blood has been soaked into the fabric, which gave me a slight chill as I walked past. Walking into the Great Hall gave me chills of another kind. I was now experiencing the same sort of nervous excitement that Harry must have felt entering into the Hall for the first time. Laid out before me was a dinning table, packed with all kinds of food and desserts.
Along the walls of the Great Hall, such props and costumes from the Goblet of Fire drawing and Yule Ball scenes are on display before you. The scraps of paper Cedric, Krum, and Fleur entered into the Goblet are on display, along with the forged entry baring Harry’s name. The Goblet of Fire itself is a piece of artwork. Containing what seems to be tile work and design inspirations from every culture and time period, it simply invites you to stare at it. The gorgeously detailed dress robes and gowns worn by Harry, Ron, Hermione, Krum, Cho, and Cedric line the wall, along with the robes of Professor McGonagall and Albus Dumbledore stand beside the Goblet. On display here, both costumes worn by actors Richard Harris and Michael Gambon are on display, and each represent the actors unique portrayal of the great wizard. Also not to be missed standing almost behind Dumbledore’s robes, is House Elf Dobby, who looks at you with his massive and thoughtful eyes.
The TriWizard Cup gleams next to a set of Rita Skeeter’s notebooks and her famous quick quotes quill, along with a number of the ‘Potter Stinks’ buttons. Further along, I was happily surprised to see the clothing of Tonks and Sirius Black stand before me. The vintage details of Sirius’ attire dazzled me, as did the wands of Albus Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall. Perched next to the Professor, Fawkes sat next to the costumes of Fred and George Weasley, who have an entire table of wizard joke shop products and candies beside them. Objects from Honeydukes, Zonko’s, and the Twins’ own creations (Nosebleed Nougat, Puking Pastilles, Fainting Fancies, Fever Fudge) sit on top of a Quidditch board game complete with each hand held figures of the Quidditch players on sticks. The amount of products on display here took my breath away. If only these items existed in the muggle world.
Circling once more around the Great hall, we passed by the very high quality clothes of Cornelius Fudge and of Percy Weasley. Percy’s suit looked to be expertly tailored and carried the style of fabric all the way down to his shoes, which were covered with the same material. Also on display were the very O.W.L. exam sheets and results letters that were seen only briefly in the book. Each question was printed out, while the responses of the student who took the exam looked to be written by hand.
All too soon it seemed as if we were at the end of the exhibit. We began to walk out, but one more magical moment occurred just before I was to exit the Great Hall. Glancing up above me, I was awestruck to see dozens of it candles floating above me throughout the Great Hall. After pausing to take one last look at the Great Hall of Hogwarts, a room which contained so many memories, I walked out into the final corridor, was greeted by applauding portraits on the wall, and slowly passed through some sort of magical threshold, back into the Muggle world.