Harry Potter: The Exhibition – Chicago, IL, USA
From April 30, 2009, to September 27, 2009, Harry Potter: The Exhibition was hosted at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, Illinois. This was its first North American stop and first stop overall.
Today was the day that the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, IL previewed Harry Potter: The Exhibition to several representatives from the various Harry Potter fansites. I, on behalf of MuggleNet, was thrilled to attend.
We entered through the first set of doors, and were ushered in by an enthusiastic chap who leads us to the first section of the exhibit: the Sorting Hat. Through the doors on the wall opposite were eight video screens, rectangular and hung vertically like portraits (with frames around them). It was here that we relived a short series of memorable moments from our favorite Harry Potter films, arranged in such a way so as to prepare us for what lies ahead. The true entrance to the exhibit opens, as if by magic, at the conclusion of the short video. If the sound and lighting weren’t enough to take you in already, staring you down is the Hogwarts Express… The artifacts to be found beyond this entry-point are many. Pumpkin juice (with a pumpkin on the lid!) and Harry’s acceptance letter are all some of the first items on display.
The attention to detail in any one of these props is extravagant. I notice for the first time engravings of a castle on the Golden Egg from the First Triwizard Task. A potions display features what can only be described as “stuff in jars” next to the very intricate costume of Professor Slughorn in the upcoming Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince film. There is a box labeled bezoars, with bezoars inside, and two editions of Advanced Potion Making by Liberatius [sic] Borage. Very cool.
Across the way is a Divination display. What’s that in the teacup? Oh no, it’s the Grim!! Across the way from there is a display of Professor Umbridge’s office. Then, next were the hands-on features of the exhibit which are worth, in and of themselves, a standing ovation. First is the Mandrake table, where all you have to do is pull on the plants and, before you know it, there’s a Mandrake beneath it screeching at you. I Through the Quidditch tent entrance ahead hang uniforms worn by Ireland and Bulgaria, Cedric Diggory, Harry, and even Ron from Half-Blood Prince. The hands-on display in this area is the Quaffle Toss. Passing a Quaffle through these hoops sets off the Hogwarts Quidditch pitch bell. The ring of success will never quite be so good to hear in the films, for now, I have triggered it with my bare hands.
Inside Hagrid’s Hut, the costume which is impossibly large hangs welcomingly. A sign next to Hagrid’s chair reads “Please sit,” so we do. It’s huge. Across the way by the fireplace is the table, upon which an egg, slightly cracked, begins to wiggle. The magic, all of it, is alive in this exhibit. It’s real, tangible, and right there waiting to be witnessed.
There are 25 costumes throughout this exhibit, and some belonged to Harry, Ron, or Hermione in their early years. Even Draco Malfoy’s Quidditch robes from Chamber of Secrets are here, and boy – are they small! At one point, such costumes were worn by real-life eleven[-] and twelve[-]year[-]olds.
Moving on I see it’s getting darker outside… or rather, inside, and soon I find myself in the Forbidden Forest. There are Centaurs, yes, among other things. There is a Portkey, though… it’s the Triwizard Cup! Two chess pieces from Sorcerer’s Stone are present. The Angel of Death graveyard statue is present, and up in the sky, I see that the Dark Mark has been cast. I want to get out of the darkness sooner rather than later, so I do.
I find my way past an ornate, aged torch pillar and breathe a sigh of relief as I realize that I am now about to enter the Great Hall. Educational Decrees hang from the wall – each one unique and imposing. On the far corner of the Great Hall is a section devoted to the Yule Ball. Hermione’s gown and Ron’s dress robes are unbelievable up close.
Our last stop is the gift shop. From start to finish, the places we feel we know are ours to explore. The attention to detail paid by every artist on the props and costumes absolutely glistens in this intimate environment where they seem to live and breathe on their own.
Harry Potter: The Exhibition is not only a must-see for every Harry Potter fan. I would go so far as to call it a Harry Potter fan’s Mecca, for inside it is housed all of the elements of what makes J.K. Rowling’s world so magical and a reminder of how that world can so easily exist within our own.