In what is probably the cleverest scheme to capture any remaining pocket change that Bernard Madoff has not swindled out of the average American, the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry is slated to open a Harry Potter exhibit on Thursday, 30 April. According to what I’ve read, Harry Potter: The Exhibition takes visitors from the Hogwarts Express train platform through the Gryffindor common room, classrooms, the Great Hall, the Forbidden Forest and Hagrid’s hut before depositing them into a real-life Diagon Alley, where they can spend any remaining galleons and knuts they might still possess on wands, jewelry and other potternalia.
This exhibition, which comprises more than 200 props and costumes, is more than just a cheap ploy to extract money from drooling fans: it is educational.
“We think it’s inspirational for people to look at how the filmmakers literally bring the books to life,” says Eddie Newquist, president of branded entertainment for Exhibitgroup/Giltspur, which produced the exhibition. “We want to exceed expectations and … surprise people.”
The exhibit is filled with creatures from the seven novels by J.K. Rowling and six Potter movies: life-sized centaurs, Buckbeak the hippogriff, dementors, thestrals and Dobby the house elf; and artifacts such as the beds used by Harry and his best friend, Ron Weasley, a Hogwarts acceptance letter and a pink box of “love potion chocolates,” which is included in the Half-Blood Prince. It also includes dozens of elaborate costumes and icons of the Potter universe, including the snake clasps on Lucius Malfoy’s cloak, Lord Voldemort’s hand-carved wand, the golden snitch, Harry’s magic wand and round glasses (see image above).
These items come “right off the film sets,” Newquist says. He worked with filmmakers for three years to identify items for the exhibit and to create the descriptive placards and displays. For example, the fantastical creatures are “study models” that were placed on the set during filming for human characters to interact with, then replaced with computer animation, he says.
The reason for the exhibit is simple: to attract kids to the museum, in the hopes that they will be exposed to science. This is the core mission of the museum.
“Museums recognize that if popular culture can get kids excited to come to the museum and then we can expose them to 14 acres of science, that’s a really good thing,” said Anne Rashford, the Museum of Science and Industry’s director of temporary exhibits.
In addition to this very fun exhibit, there will be “extras”: classes and materials in herbology, ancient runes, divination, history of witches and potions — where a poorly mixed potion can get participants thrown in the dungeon — a pajama party and a “Hogwarts-style” banquet.
Harry Potter: The Exhibition will run in Chicago from 30 April through 7 September 2009. Combination tickets that include entry into the museum and the exhibition are $26.00 for adults, $25.00 for seniors and $19.00 for children 3-11. According to the sources I’ve read, the exhibition time has already been extended in Chicago before it opened to accommodate everyone who wants to see it.
Fortunately for those of us who don’t live in the Chicago area and can’t get there for this exhibition, there are plans to tour major cities on the east and west coast. No dates have been announced yet, but I’ll bet it will appear in NYC .. although I wonder if I can wait that long?
GAH! I wish I lived in Chicago! I would break both legs to see this! Me and my camera …