NYHS's Harry Potter: A History of Magic

My best friend is a huge (understatement of the year) Harry Potter fan.


I didn’t really get into it until just a few years ago. I ignored it in high school when my brother got into it because I was too busy being a stupid girl with emotions and teenage angst and going gaga over boys at the time. I watched the first movie a LOOOOONG time ago but I wasn’t really that into it. I fell asleep during all 3 of the LOTR movies as well. I don’t know why, I just wasn’t into those fantasy movies. But I think it’s because I’m more interested in stories with a female protagonist and pretty girls. I mean, I like dragons and castles and magical worlds, but I wasn’t in love with this vision of it. I’m superficial but there wasn’t enough “pretty” going on to draw me into these worlds.

In 2015, I went to Universal with my best friend on a spontaneous vacation and was introduced to Harry Potter World in the parks. I hadn’t been since I was about 15 or so, so it’s been quite a while and clearly a lot had changed. There was no Wizarding World part of the park back in 2003. It was a new experience for me and I found it pretty cool. I appreciated what they had built and that there was a train connected between the two parks, further immersing you into this world they brought to life. I rode the rides, visited the shops and explored the alleyways and corners. But I didn’t really understand it.

Over the next few years, I started traveling more with my friends and visits to the Orlando and Hollywood parks spiraled out of control. I started watching the movies, and then slowly got through the books. It took me a while because adulting and all other things I have going on in my daily life, but I finally finished the books this past summer. Better late than never, right?

Now all the rides and details of the park world makes sense to me when I revisit. And funny thing, I’ve visited three different Harry Potter Worlds now. I’ve been to the Universal in Orlando, Hollywood and the one in Osaka, Japan. They’re all similar but have their differences.

And this fall, my best friend wanted to visit the new Harry Potter exhibit at the New York Historical Society Museum that just opened up. We went on opening day, a Friday evening since all weekend tickets for October was sold out for the month. Actually almost all the weekends are sold out til late November! I didn’t think it would be this popular before it even opened but I’m not that well informed regarding the HP world and all its popularity.

If you’re a big Harry Potter nerd, I would definitely recommend you stop by this exhibit if you’re in the New York area. Buy your tickets in advance and if you still have your school ID like I do, cop that discount! It’s decently priced for what it is and will definitely fascinate your inner Potter nerd.

Unfortunately for this exhibit though, there is no photography allowed once you past through the exhibit walls. There’s artwork you can freely take photos of before you enter, and the gift shop itself is something to marvel at, but the actual walk-through is for your eyes only. I snuck two photos in so you can see what it looks like somewhat but I wasn’t able to get any good close up details of what the exhibit entailed. Although, photos can’t truly describe it. You need to see it for yourself to appreciate the work that went into the exhibit, as well as the work and research that JK Rowling put into creating this world and translating it into a literary dream.

There are letters, photos, drawings, storyboards, and other various pieces of history that they have displayed regarding how the books came to fruition. For example, you’ll see how JK Rowling envisioned Harry to look in her own caricature of him, versus other illustrators visions. There are letters of how the title came to be and why there are different versions for America and the UK. There are different halls, each devoted to the subjects that the students took in the book like herbology, divination, the Dark Arts, magical creatures, and potions. In each of those rooms, they had ancient books of magic, witchcraft and fantasy that had been the research and inspiration for JK Rowling. You can tell she poured a lot of work into this, meticulously planning every detail out, down to the character’s names, the spell names, and the details of how each creature was to appear.

One interesting thing I noted at the exhibit was that even for a Friday evening, it was quite busy and crowded so I wasn’t able to look at everything, but that the particular crowd there that night was not the demographic I had anticipated. I thought the attendees would be in my age group or younger but there were actually a lot of older people there too. It’s particularly extraordinary to see the many different faces, age groups, and styles of people drawn into Rowling’s wondrous fantasy. Originally supposed to be a children’s book, she probably never envisioned that this would spiral into such an obsession for such a wide audience of people, and spark into movies, theme parks, countless amounts of merchandise and more. It’s crazy because you’ll never known what will catch on and what doesn’t make the cutting room floor when it comes to fandoms.

In my honest opinion though, I do appreciate the world of Harry Potter but I didn’t catch onto it and dive in as heavily as some of my friends have. Maybe if the story had been about Hermione or another girl, I would’ve loved it more. I do find myself enjoying Harry Potter World more than the rest of the theme park when visiting Universal. One of my favorite places to eat is actually The Three Broomsticks. I love walking through the castle and the bank. There’s so much detail to look at while walking through the line that you never really mind the long wait since the buildings are a piece of work in itself to view.

Oh and if you’re wondering, hahaha. I was sorted into Slytherin by the hat in the WB Studio Tour in Hollywood. BUT, I had also been sorted by a friend many years ago before I read the books, as Fleur Delacour. I didn’t understand it at the time but once I finished the books, I found the comparison oddly fitting. I’ll take it since I never really gravitated towards any one of the original 4 houses. And Beauxbaton being a French foreign school is more fitting for my nature. I would wear their uniform over the Hogwarts one. It’s more my style.

The exhibit is also notably right next to the Museum of Natural History, one of my favorite museums in the city, if you’re looking for other things to do. (And if you’re not a New Yorker or maybe you are but just don’t know, this museum is a pay as you wish museum so you can get in and view most of the exhibits for as little as $1! It’s all suggested donation based unless you wish to view the planetarium shows and other special exhibits.)