Harry Potter’s World Comes to The College of Wooster

Exhibition focuses on historical roots of this modern sensation

February 9, 2013 by John Finn

WOOSTER, Ohio — The mystique of modern literature’s most endearing character will be explored when The College of Wooster Libraries present “Harry Potter’s World: Renaissance Science, Magic, and Medicine” now through Mar. 23 in the lobby of Andrews Library (1140 Beall Ave.). The exhibition, which is free and open to the public, provides a glimpse of the backstory for J.K. Rowling’s literary phenomenon, which has captivated millions of readers around the world since its first release in 1997.

Although purely fictional, Harry Potter is actually based, in part, on Renaissance traditions that served as a foundation for the development of Western science, including alchemy, astrology, and natural philosophy. The exhibition also looks at the influence of 15th- and 16th-century thinkers in shaping important ethical topics, such as the desire for knowledge, the effects of prejudice, and the responsibility that comes with power — all of which were part of the Harry Potter series.

The exhibition, which uses materials from the U.S National Library of Medicine and is supported by the National Institutes of Health, consists of six panels, each with a different Harry Potter theme: potions, monsters, magical creatures, herbology, fantastic beasts, and immortality.

"This exhibit draws out some unique aspects of the Harry Potter series, including the influence of historical science, herbology, and mythological animals,” said Julia Gustafson, research and outreach librarian at The College of Wooster. “Our hope is that the exhibit will inspire some creative areas of research on campus and at area schools, in addition to being just plain fun to see."

The opening reception for the exhibition at Wooster will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 13, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. The program will be held in the Andrews Cube, part of the library’s Collaborative Research Environment (CoRE), and will feature two brief presentations. The first, titled “Mythological Beasts and Magical Language,” will be delivered by Monica Florence, assistant professor of classical studies at Wooster. The second, titled “Use and Abuse of Magic and Witchcraft,” will be given by Pam Frese, professor of sociology and anthropology at Wooster. The evening will culminate with a costume contest in the lobby from 8-8:30 p.m.

This exhibit is brought to you by the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, and curated by Elizabeth J. Bland. There is an accompanying web site with educational resources. Additional information is available by phone (330-263-2315) or e-mail.