I will start this review by saying that the British Library teamed up with various libraries across the UK to offer sister exhibits, one of which was in my hometown of Huddersfield. I already had an idea of what to expect from the main attraction. The local versions should hopefully reflect the magical world according to local history. If you can't get to London then you still have a chance to learn about magic and also about legends in your own area.
HPAHOM is less to do with the actual Harry Potter books (and the various offshoots such as Magical Creatures, Beedle The Bard etc.) and more about the actual history of magic in the world, so don't go into this exhibition expecting massive amounts of Potter trivia or props because they won't be there. Yes, there are sketches done by J. K. Rowling as well as previous versions of chapters or scenes from the books and official artwork on loan from the publishers Bloomsbury. But you are more likely to find yourself reading about herbs that have been used throughout the world to either heal an infliction most severe or help line the pockets of a conman flogging fake remedies.
It is split into eight sections (not including the entry and exit points), each one is dedicated to one of the subjects that are taught at Hogwarts: Potions, Alchemy, Herbology, Charms, Astronomy, Divination, Defence Against Dark Arts and Care Of Magical Creatures. There is plenty to look at and read about; lots of items are on loan from various museums that specialise in the various areas.
It can get a little crowded at times so I wouldn't do each room in a linear queue. Aim for areas that are empty and work your way around, it's much quicker and less frustrating than being stuck behind a bunch of slow readers (seriously how did some of you get through The Half Blood Prince?). You could theoretically go straight to Magical Creatures and work your way back, there's nothing to stop you from going back through. But you're going to end up waiting behind someone somewhere so take each room as you go.
It took me about an hour and a half to get through all of it and I saw nearly everything but prepare for it to take longer if it's a busy time of day. I entered around 3:30pm. The event is looking set to be sold out for quite a while so don't wait to book tickets.
The gift shop (not the main library one – one specifically for the event) is very small. There's only the Potter books and History Of Magic merchandise (book, hoody).
Photography & videos are banned and there are bag searches at the main entrance.
You enter on the main floor of the entrance hall and then drop down onto one floor where the rest of the exhibit is, but there is a lift available. The first room of potions is crowded but it evens out across the rest of sections. There is also low level lighting to help preserve the items on show so that's something to be aware of if you have limited visibility. And there isn't an awful lot of seating either. So if you struggle to stand for long periods of time, I suggest bringing a fold up seat or a wheelchair. No loud noises and any animated screens don't flash or tend to be slow moving. Toilets at the end by the gift shop.
There's a couple of interactive games, and by that I mean a literal two in the whole exhibit. I think you can get a guide for children to follow and tick things off that they see but aside from that if you have very young children, they will get bored. If you can't get a babysitter, it's dark and fairly quiet, so maybe use the opportunity to get Junior off for a nap in his pram while you browse.
Book tickets HERE
File under: Harry Potter, A History Of Magic, British Library, BLHarryPotter
Kel McGowan is Kelligrafie