“Harry Potter: The Exhibition” Stuns Us With Its Magical World Premiere

by Katie Aiani

The Exhibition was hosted at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from February 18, 2022, to September 18, 2022. This was the first stop and world premiere for the Exhibition created by Imagine Exhibitions.

Harry Potter: The Exhibition at the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, feels as if you really were transported straight into the Wizarding World. Between the wide variety of detailed, well-lit displays of props and costumes, the goal to include evolving displays in the future of the tour, and the immersive design experience, you do not want to miss out on this new Wizarding World destination.

 

This is the wristband to get into the Harry Potter Exhibit at Franklin Institute.

 

After arriving at the Platform 9 ¾ themed check-in area, input your name, Hogwarts House, choice of a Patronus, your favorite wand from a specified list, and take your profile photo. Each visitor is given a unique Golden Snitch-themed RFID bracelet that will activate their profile choices throughout the tour.

 

This Boggart is at the Franklin Institute.

 

Special, captivating, and magical, Harry Potter: The Exhibition is a great destination for the entire family. Expect to take your time interacting with your personalized journey, following the Golden Snitch wall symbols through the tour and scanning your bracelet in each room to experience the magic being brought to life. Visitors can defeat a Boggart, re-pot Mandrakes, write a proclamation at Umbridge’s desk, practice spell movements, and even crawl into the cupboard under the stairs.

 

Marauders Map at "Harry Potter: The Exhibition".

 

One particular interactive space is dedicated to the Marauders Map with the intricate Hogwarts grounds design from floor to ceiling. When you scan your bracelet at the entrance, your name will appear on the map revealing your location inside the castle. Later in the tour, you will discover costumes and props from the Fantastic Beasts films, including a set with the Bowtruckle tree and the inside of Newt Scamander’s suitcase, where you can learn about a variety of magical creatures.

 

These Bowtruckles are at the Franklin Institute.

 

With props from the films around every corner – and there are more corners than Diagon Alley in the 20,000 square-foot space – the Exhibition developers truly did their homework. For example, the Ravenclaw House mascot and colors now reflect the Harry Potter book descriptions, and in the Deathly Hallows artifact display (featuring the Elder Wand prop and the Resurrection Stone), the Invisibility Cloak had just an empty display with a description tag for the invisibility cloak. These details, and so many more, are what will attract both Potterheads and their friends and family members to the exhibition.

 

This is the wand and Herbology section at the Franklin Institute Exhibit.

 

One of my favorite things about this experience is how much it feels like the Warner Bros Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter. Each room feels like you’re walking onto the Wizarding World sets in some way, with the added bits of history and interactive components scattered throughout. If you are a cosplayer, love to dress up for social media, or are interested in unique family photo ops, this will immediately become your new favorite destination.

 

Professor Umbridge's office at "Harry Potter: The Exhibition".

 

A gift shop awaits you at the end of the exhibition with bottled Butterbeer and new merchandise available that was developed uniquely for Harry Potter: The Exhibition. MinaLima, the graphic design team behind both the Fantastic Beasts and Harry Potter franchises, has a variety of artwork for purchase within the gift shop. This includes two collectible prints, of which only 500 premium prints were made and signed featuring the special Philadelphia-specific design.

 

These posters are sold at the Franklin Institute.

 

I had the privilege to interview Tom Zaller, President, and CEO of Imagine Exhibitions, Inc, the company which partnered with Warner Bros to help design the exhibit at Franklin Institute, who shared his excitement for Harry Potter: The Exhibition.

This is what we do for a living. […] The hardest part was probably the last week of getting it all together, but that’s always the end. Working with Warner Bros. and their partners made it possible.

Zaller also emphasized that this exhibition will be unlike anything fans have seen before.

The [Wizarding World] brand is so powerful and so strong. People love it, and I think we give them a place to share that love. […] You won’t get this anywhere else in the world. […] We are our own unique thing. I think that we were able to do things that people haven’t done.

Harry Potter: The Exhibition opened on February 18, 2022, to the public at the Franklin Institute. Here it will host visitors through September 18, 2022, when it will begin traveling internationally to Latin America, the Asia Pacific Region, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

For more information about tickets, hours, and pricing, please visit The Franklin Institute.

Full Transcript with Tom Zaller, Thursday, February 17, 2022

Transcribed by Marissa Osman

Katie Aiani: Hi! Thank you for inviting us all here to the grand opening. What would you say was the hardest part of this exhibit to bring to life?

Tom Zaller: We’re so fortunate to work with such an incredible brand and with so many assets, from the movie props to drawings and designs to the costumes. So it wasn’t that hard because... I mean, of course, it’s hard. It’s all hard, but this is what we do for a living. We were able to have access to such incredible stuff. It made it easier. So I would say the hardest part was probably the last week of getting it all together, but that’s always the end. Working with Warner Bros. and their partners made it possible. We have recreated the Great Hall. It’s amazing.

Katie: Yes, it’s incredible! I feel like I’m there.

Tom: You’re standing in Herbology or Potions next to costumes that are worn by the stars in the show. It’s great. It’s, of course, easier to make something great when it’s already something great. The brand is so powerful and so strong. People love it, and I think we give them a place to share that love.

Katie: Absolutely. What’s your favorite part?

Tom: That’s hard. I mean, it’s like [picking a] favorite child. I will say, I was really excited about a Great Hall experience because it’s something new. You won’t get this anywhere else in the world. You’re going to go to Universal, and it’s awesome; you go Leavesden, and it’s awesome; you go to New York to the store, and it’s awesome; you go see Cursed Child, [and] it’s awesome. It’s all great, but we are our own unique thing. I think that we were able to do things that people haven’t done, which I think is super fun. But I do love the Great Hall experience. I love the Marauder’s Map in the beginning with the castle. That projection was really good.

Katie: Oh, yeah! It’s so pretty.

Tom: Did you tap the thing?

Katie: I did! It’s so cool. Your name is coming up.

Tom: Yeah, it’s fun. Your name comes up, isn’t that fun?

Katie: How long did it take to construct all of this?

Tom: We started the project two years ago, and so the building - the actual nailing and that - [happened over] the last... let’s say the last year. But. No, it’s a thing. It’s a process. This is also a traveling show, so we have to pick this up and move it again. But luckily not for another six months.

Katie: I attended the Harry Potter Exhibition in 2010 in Seattle, and I was never fortunate enough to attend the ones in Europe.

Tom: It’s the same show anyway.

Katie: Yeah? Okay, I was curious because that exhibition was a separate company, right?

Tom: That exhibition was a touring show. That does not exist anymore. That toured for ten years and ended right when the pandemic happened. It was in Portugal; I think [that] was the last show. It was the same show for ten years, so I know the people really well who did that. Actually, I was a host of that show in Singapore. I had a museum that I worked at in Singapore, and I hosted it there. So I’m very familiar with it. Obviously, I understood from that the power of the brand and [how to bring it to life] and how much people love this kind of thing. But it also made me remember what I wanted to do [differently]. I think this is completely different.

Katie: Oh, it is. I can confirm. Absolutely.

Tom: I’m so very proud of what it is. I think we made something special.

Katie: Thank you. Thank you from the fans.

Tom: Yeah. You can come in, and it’s personalized. You can do it your way. You can choose your wand to cast your spell. I just think it’s really different for everybody. Obviously, this is very personal for you, I can tell.

Katie: Oh, absolutely.

Tom: I want to talk to you at the end for sure because I hope - I think - we did something really special, and I think people are going to love it.

Katie: For sure, please! It’s for all ages too. I can see kids and adults loving this. And just to wrap up, because I know you’re very busy: What is your Hogwarts House and your favorite character?

Tom: I am officially sorted into Ravenclaw, but I do have Gryffindor tendencies, and so I think I’m some kind of mixture of those two.

Katie: You’re a Hatstall. That’s what we call it: a Hatstall.

Tom: Yeah, that’s right. What was your other question?

Katie: [Who is] your favorite Harry Potter character? Or Wizarding World character! It could be from Fantastic Beasts or Cursed Child.

Tom: That’s tough. You know what, though? I’m going to go with Harry Potter. [There are] a lot of characters that I love, but I think... I think Newt is cool. I like Bellatrix Lestrange. I like a lot of them. But, I have to say, if I had to pick today, anyway, that’s who [I would pick]. But tomorrow, it might be somebody else. I tend to pick the phoenix as my Patronus; it just somehow feels right to me, but I think in my online Sorting Hat [quiz], I think it was a cat or something. It wasn’t a phoenix. [laughs]

Katie: Okay! Mine was a Thestral, so that’s apparently very rare.

Tom: I think it’s so fun with everybody. You have that connection, and that’s what this is for. And I think it’s for every level of fan. You can be in here and know nothing, and you will appreciate all the-

Katie: It’s so beautiful, yeah! I could spend all day here. Not everyone could, but of course, I could. This is incredible. Thank you so much for your time.

Tom: Thank you.

 

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