It’s not The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but for now, it’s the next best thing. Harry Potter: The Exhibition opened yesterday in Discovery Times Square in Manhattan. Now through Sept. 5, muggles can spend a good hour (or longer) examining hundreds of original props and costumes from all of the previous Harry Potter films. The exhibition debuted in Chicago in 2009, and has since had runs in Boston, Toronto, and Seattle. New additions for New York City include Harry’s invisibility cloak, the Sword of Gryffindor, Death Eater masks, and two more horcruxes (Salazar Slytherin’s locket and Helga Hufflepuff’s cup). I walked through the exhibition yesterday, and, since I was media, I was allowed to take photographs. You won’t be, sorry! You’ll have to settle for a green-screen shot at the start of your journey or standing in front of a large Hogwarts poster backdrop as you exit. It’s a necessary evil to keep foot traffic moving, but it’s a shame they can’t have one photo op during the tour (like bowing to Buckbeak, pictured, in the dramatically lit “Hagrid’s Hut” section). Below, a few more thoughts and photos:
A rainy weekday afternoon is probably the best time to see the exhibition: There was enough people so you could overhear a teen brother and sister quizzing each other on spells as a small group amassed at the entrance, but not a large enough crowd to stop you from spending quality time in each room. The tour begins with the Sorting Hat telling a few eager volunteers to which Hogwarts house they belong. I’m sure it’s not fixed at all, considering all three people I saw got the house they said was their favorite. (A college-aged guy actually had the nerve to say Slytherin, and was lightly booed.) Shortly after that, you’ll approach a car from the Hogwarts Express and get excited thinking you get to walk onto it. You don’t. But before you can get too disappointed, the costume parade starts.
This is where the magic happens! How many people a day will make that joke at the sight of Harry and Ron’s Gryffindor dormitory? Please do not touch Harry’s bed. But just in case you weren’t already having inappropriate thoughts, let’s go ahead and put the golden egg he took a bath with in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in there, too.
What’s most fun about seeing tons (and tons) of costumes in person is sizing up the actors. Expect to hear a lot of, “Are they actually this short?” when viewing wardrobe for the main trio, especially from the early films. You forget how young they were, and seeing their tiny frames like this — rather than on the big screen — gives you new appreciation for what the 11-year-old characters were up against. You can also better appreciate how beautiful the Yule Ball garments were (Cho Chang’s dress rivals Hermione’s up close), and how hideous Ron’s dress robes were.
Now as much fun as it is to realize Snape is actually wearing midnight blue instead of black, and to see the abrupt pink mirage that is Umbridge’s office (complete with two rows of cat plates), my favorite teacher section was Gilderoy Lockhart’s.
You want to take the time to read the fine print on certain artifacts, such as the Defense Against the Dark Arts Second Year Essential Knowledge Test, pictured above. Question 7: “Which is Gilderoy Lockhart’s best side to be photographed?” Answer: “He is so handsome any side will do.” Also worth reading, the Year 5 O.W.L. examination in a case in the Great Hall, the last room on the tour. Question 1: “Identify the spell which causes ‘bogies’ [British slang for dried nasal mucus] to turn into bats and attack the victim. List significant historical moments.”
The Quidditch section, which includes uniforms, brooms, and other paraphernalia, had the liveliest crowd — though that could have just been because I’d caught up to a group of teen boys. But leaving that, walking through the small Forbidden Forest, and into the Dark Forces section, I had another game on my mind: Pick a Wand. This shot is blurry, sorry, but I had no idea Narcissa Malfoy’s black wand was so badass (and yet still classy). If we’re just talking the looks of a wand, this is the one I’d want. Also speaking superficially, in the Great Hall, I learned I would be most likely to dress like Tonks in The Half-Blood Prince.
The Dark Forces section, was, naturally home to some haunting Death Eater masks (above) and the horcruxes (below).
Leaving the Dark Forces section, you enter the Great Hall, which the plaque reminds you is lit by thousands of candles that float about the room in the films. Here, I only counted 16. That picture didn’t turn out, probably out of protest. As awesome as it is to see these costumes and props at all, it would amazing to see them in an environment that makes you feel like you’ve been transported somewhere other than to the basement of a building in Manhattan. (Cue the three-hour Warner Bros. Studio Tour London — The Making of Harry Potter, which opens next year.)
Leaving the Great Hall, the last two things you see are Fawkes and the Sword of Gryffindor. I was almost angry that I was the only one who stopped to pay her respects to the former. Perhaps that’s because the Great Hall exits into the gift shop. Am I the only one who finds the magnet above… odd? Who wants a
racist magnet that reads “Filthy Mudblood (The Death Eaters will soon be coming for you!)”?!? I, myself, would have opted for a Rita Skeeter notebook had they been selling them.