Explore the British Library’s Harry Potter: A History of Magic exhibition with Google Arts & Culture

The Pottermore News Team

Super Carlin Brothers with British Library curator Julian Harrison
The Super Carlin Brothers with Julian Harrison. Rights: Google Arts & Culture​.

The British Library’s Harry Potter: A History of Magic exhibition ends this week, but thanks to Google Arts & Culture you can still have a mooch around the displays – as well as watch an exclusive video from YouTubers the Super Carlin Brothers.

Harry Potter: A History of Magic has been wowing multitudes of visitors to London’s British Library since last October. The exhibition blends items from the Wizarding World – such as early drafts of the novels from J.K. Rowling’s personal archive, and artwork by Harry Potter illustrator Jim Kay – with artefacts from our own ‘magical’ world, such as witch’s broomsticks, cauldrons, scrolls, manuscripts, paintings and much more from the British Library’s own collection and elsewhere. The exhibition ends on Wednesday, but will soon travel to the New-York Historical Society on 5 October, where it will run until 27 January 2019.

However, thanks to the wonders of modern technology and the clever team at Google Arts & Culture, there’s now the opportunity to explore the exhibition online in detail right now on their special, dedicated page here.

Olga Hunt's broomstick, from the collection of the British Library
Olga Hunt’s broomstick, the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic (from the collection of the British Library).

This page, divided into sections and featuring all sorts of interactive imagery, enables you – among many other things – to examine the rooms from the exhibition in 360-degree detail. Just scroll down to the ‘Online Exhibit’ section and you can have a look around the rooms for Potions, Alchemy, Herbology, Charms, Astronomy, Divination, Defence Against the Dark Arts and Care of Magical Creatures.

Once you’ve clicked on ‘Divination’, for example, you can get a close-up look at a Chinese Oracle bone dating from 1192 BC, and peer into a witch’s scrying mirror. The ‘Astronomy’ section allows you to check out a centaur from an 11th-century Anglo-Saxon manuscript, study some pages from one of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks and explore the room itself – don’t forget to look up at the starry sky!

Illustration of centaur from British Library History of Magic exhibition
An Anglo-Saxon centaur (from the collection of the British Library).

And if you click on Potions, you’ll find the very first printed image of witches with a cauldron, all the way from 1489. Not bad, and all from the comfort of your own home.

There’s also an exclusive video of YouTube sensations the Super Carlin Brothers, aka Ben and J, sitting down with the British Library exhibition’s Lead Curator, Julian Harrison, to discuss wizarding skills. You can check out their interview here… and be warned, it contains a rather gross-looking mermaid.

The Google Arts & Culture page also includes an exclusive Q&A with Harrison called ‘How Do You Create an Exhibition About Magic?’ He says of the end result: ‘The public reaction has been incredible. We’ve managed to make a lot of people very happy, which we never could’ve predicted.’

Harrison also looks into ‘Ten Strange Things You Didn’t Know About the History of Magic’ – one of them being that ‘Moles on the buttocks are especially auspicious’, so make sure you give that a read if you happen to have any on your posterior and were wondering why.

Other treats on the site include an interview with Jim Kay about his artwork (‘Sitting on my own all day for 12 hours a day is really difficult – I’m quite fidgety,’ he reveals), plus the chance to have a good look at an array of his illustrations. There’s a collection of ‘Magical creatures through the ages’, an absolutely phenomenal interactive photo of the epic, six-metre-long Ripley Scroll from the 1500s, and much, much more.

So, whether you’ve seen the exhibition already and want to revisit it, whether you’re going to visit it in New York in the autumn or if you’re just curious, visit Google Arts & Culture and have a rummage around in the goodies on display. Be warned, though: you may well be playing on this page for hours.

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