Harry Potter A History of Magic at The British Library

I will preface this post by saying i’m no Potterhead – I read all the Harry Potter books many years ago and have seen the films, some several times but I have never had a movie marathon or own any merchandise… I am however an ardent admirer of JK Rowling’s work and how her writing for children and adults draws from real, often sombre themes but also has the ability to see hope and magic in the darkest of places.

You have just under two months to catch The Harry Potter History of Magic Exhibition at The British Library – a scholarly but humorous stroll through the library’s archives of magical rare books, manuscripts and curious objects capturing the traditions of folklore and magic which are at the heart of the Harry Potter stories.


Far from being a Warner Brothers style spectacle – housed inside the British Library the set up feels low-key and academic – there is a small (but fantastic) Harry Potter Giftshop brimming with beautiful magical themed gift objects (not just HP merchandise) and banners of the four houses hang stoically in the impressive inner courtyard of the building.

Inside the exhibition, each space is divided into different rooms themed around Hogwarts classes showcasing historical items as well as interactive surprises. If you put your ears to the terracotta plant pots in Herbology you can listen to Stephen Fry reading from the books… in Astronomy a magical starlit sky twinkles realistically above and in Potions you can practice make spells using digital cauldrons.

It’s also spectacular to note that the magical relics shown behind the glass casings such as a Celestial globe dating from 1693, a black moon crystal ball used by a real witch, a mermaid allegedly caught in Japan in the 18th century and an early written record of ‘abracadabra’, used as a charm to cure malaria – are all magical items from ‘Muggle history’.

Harry Potter A History of Magic at The British Library is open until 28 February 2018. It’s worth noting that although online tickets may be sold out – the box office releases new ones every week available to book over the phone.

Oh and also do check out the BBC Documentary Harry Potter: A History of Magic about the making of the exhibition before you go.

Author: Rohini Wahi

Rohini is a London based freelance journalist and trend forecaster for the design industries. She has worked for Elle Decoration, Living Etc, Houzz and Design Sponge amongst others.

She loves a period drama and keeps a tidy home. Launched in 2007 The Beat That My Heart Skipped focuses on home inspirations, design trends, lifestyle and food – coupled with an insight into Rohini’s work and home life – from key picks at trade shows to styled weekend soirees. To contact Rohini for queries, work for hire or just to say hi drop her a line at mail@rohiniwahi.com

1 Comment on Harry Potter A History of Magic at The British Library

  1. Mia
    Saturday, January 13th, 2018 03:09 at 3:09 am (10 months ago)

    It looks amazing! Wonderful post. I’m not a Potterhead either, but everything from the stories themeselves to the design details, like the potion books and pictures are just so imaginative & captivating!

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