'Harry Potter: The Exhibition' hits New York -- we take the tour!

potter-exhibit

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.

Comments (37 total) Add your comment
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  • Kristina

    Went to the exhibit when it was in Boston. Well worth the money for any Harry Potter fan, especially if you’re interested in the behind-the-scenes stuff like myself.

    • Stef

      The Lord of the Rings Exhibit in Boston had a photo opportunity for 2 people- both sat on a bench, and the “magic” people took a picture where one would appear the size of a hobbit, and the other would be regular size- it’s a fun souvenier! I also saw Harry Potter in Boston, and would have loved a similar experience- maybe a photo on a broomstick? Or at least be able to have a pic sitting in Hagrid’s massive chair! But you’re right- overall, well worth the money!

    • kevin

      How much does it cost?

  • Kelly

    Yay!!! I saw this exhibit in Boston, it is so great! Great pics ~

  • B

    Very cool. Thanks for sharing the pictures!

  • mickey

    When is it coming to Tampa?????

  • Dan

    Also saw this in Boston, it was awesome & I’m thinking I may have to go again, if only to see the new arrivals…

  • Ella

    Saw it in Boston as well! Great exhibit.

  • Dash

    This all looks super cool, like my heart almost exploded and my brain began to whir into action to think how I could afford a trip to New York to see this. Where else is the exhibit going? Hoping somewhere near me in the midwest.

    • Dash

      And yes the magnet is racist. Why would they even make that?! Although Hermione tried to reclaim the term in the last book.

    • Jewel

      Dash…it was in Chicago at the Science and Industry Museum in 2009, when I went to it. It was awesome, you should have gone!

      • Dash

        I’m in Pittsburgh so that would have been equally as difficult to get to! How is it that Pittsburgh is constantly being ranked as a top place to live and yet we can’t get awesome things like this?!

  • chocolateislove

    Will the exhibit be coming to DC? Because that would be awesome.

  • steph

    why is new york so far away! Dang midwest not having anything cool to do!

  • Katja

    Gilderoy has “one” Witch Weekly’s Most Charming Smile Award, eh? Points off from that student.

  • chris

    Europe is still waiting…

  • Claire Page

    Thank you so much for the photos! As an Australian I have a zero chance of ever seeing this exhibition so it was nice to at least get a small glimpse as a massive HP fan.

    • ps in seattle

      After the Exhibition closes in New York it will go international, spending about six months in each location. There is no published list of where the Exhibition will appear, so it could very possibly stop in Australia at some point. I had the privilege of seeing the Exhibition in Seattle, and it was outstanding. I highly recommend it!

      • Claire Page

        Fingers crossed it does make it to Australia!

  • librahawk

    FYI Mandi, They sell the rita skeeter notebook at the post office in Hogsmeade at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

  • j

    Ok this may sound stupid but I’m gona ask anyway:
    is everything in this exhibit authentic? Did everything appear or get used in the films or is some of the stuff replicas? I live in NY so I think I may have to check this out!

    • ps in seattle

      EVERYTHING in this exhibit is authentic. EVERYTHING in this exhibit was used in one or more of the films: Actual Sorting Hat when you enter, all original costumes, everyone’s wands, a Skiving Snackbox, actual Buckbeak, the actual sorcerer’s stone, a dementor, textbooks, the bogart cupboard, the Mirror or Erised, an egg from the first task, all of these and tons more are actual props from the films. It is a beautiful exhibit, a Potterhead’s dream.

      • j

        wow! when I origionally heard about that I was kinda underwhelmed, but now that I know EVERYTHING is authentic, I will have to make my way over there. I think I want to wait until closer to the movie release in July though and make it an experience…hope everybody else doesn’t have the same idea!

      • ps in seattle

        Why not go more than once? There is so much to see, you might miss something the first time around. Take your time to study everything, because the details are incredible. One of my personal favorites is Harry’s Hogwarts letter. It looked like the upper left corner was folded down, but on closer inspection there was some sort of gold embossed “protector” affixed to that corner. I never noticed that in the movie, but it was important to the person who created that letter, even though it might not be seen. So totally cool.

  • Winona

    I saw this in Chicago in ’09 – reading this was like going through it all over again. My favorite part was McGonagall’s green dress robes – simply magnificent. Don’t forget to read all the way to the bottom of the Educational Decrees – literally lots of “blah blah blah”!

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