Lonely Planet Writer

Explore the real history of magic at the new Harry Potter exhibition in New York

An incredible new Harry Potter exhibition has opened at the New-York Historical Society until 27 January 2019. If you can’t get to see it – its initial run in London was a sell-out – here’s a peek at what you can expect.

Part of Harry Potter A History of Magic exhibition
A phoenix rising from the ashes in a 13th-century bestiary. (c) British Library

Harry Potter: A History of Magic celebrates the 20th anniversary of the publication of the first Harry Potter book by displaying a rare collection of objects detailing magical and folkloric traditions from around the world, many of which were an inspiration to J.K. Rowling’s universe.

Using Hogwarts’ subject lessons as themes – including Potions, Herbology, Divination, Care of Magical Creatures and Defence Against the Dark Arts – visitors can examine Chinese Oracle bones, celestial globes, a manuscript on alchemy dating from the 1500s and the earliest written record of the word ‘abracadabra’, to name just a few.

The Ripley Scroll, detail
England, ca. 1570
General Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University

There will also be some items on loan from both J.K. Rowling and publisher Bloomsbury, including Rowling’s annotated sketch of Hogwarts, her handwritten list of teachers and subjects and the original Jim Kay artwork for the illustrated editions of the books.

J.K. Rowling herself praised the exhibition. “Encountering objects for real that have in some shape or form figured in my books has been quite wonderful ” she said in a statement. “To have several of my own items in the exhibition is a reminder of twenty amazing years since Harry was first published.”

A broomstick belonging to Olga Hunt © Museum of Witchcraft, Boscastle

Visitors to the exhibition will also get a magical bonus; a free audio tour voiced by Natalie Dormer giving an in-depth explanation of the items. Dormer is also the audiobook narrator of the companion book which is available now in both digital and print if you can’t make the exhibition yourself.

This article was originally published on 30 October 2017 and was updated on 15 October 2018.