By Jill Diver
Whether invited by friend, foe, dark arts professor or an owl post, muggles can visit Hagrid’s hut, play Quidditch, travel through the forbidden forest, and view The Daily Prophet — sadly, there is no web version — all here in Boston.
Viewers get to see everything from Harry’s Nimbus 2000 broomstick to The Triwizard Cup, all at the Boston Museum of Science in the East Coast premiere of “Harry Potter: The Exhibition,” through Feb. 21, 2010.
“I think kids fall in love with some of the creatures like Buckbeak, or going into Hagrid’s hut, I think young and old there is something here for everyone,” said Eddie Newquist, executive producer of the exhibit.
Visitors start their journey into Hogwarts with the Sorting Hat, sending wizards, good and bad, to their respective houses; Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw or Slytherin.
After an eight screen montage, a train whistle is heard, a curtain rises and there is the Hogwarts Express.
“The exhibit is in essence, a day in the life of a student,” said Newquist. “Visitors arrive, go to the dorm, go to classes, make your way outside to the forbidden forest and then to the dark forces area and into the great hall.”
While casting spells, learning curses and attending alchemy class can be counted as science, there is a creative science behind “Harry Potter: The Exhibition.”
“The museum’s mission is to bring science and technology and engineering to the widest possible audience and the Harry Potter phenomenon, both the books and films, are a sure way to introduce folks to the museum who have not visited in years or never been here at all,” said Paul Fontaine, vice president of education at the museum. “Translating the complete fantasy world of Harry Potter into a tangible world with these real objects took a lot of creativity, innovation and ‘inno-vention’ and those are the foundations for science; as well as literacy for reading and all the creativity it takes to make this.”
Enter into the Gryffindor Common Room, there the Fat Lady guards the door and Harry’s wand, along with the wand of Neville Longbottom, are on display.
Actor Matthew Lewis, 20, who plays Longbottom, was there on opening day to place his wand into a display case.
“I’ve been the first person from the cast to come. Being such a huge fan of the Harry Potter universe, myself, since I was 9, to be able to be invited out here and check this out is wicked,” said Lewis. “We get to do this stuff everyday — we get to wear the costumes and play with all these props. When you make the films you don’t really get to see the kids and the people and the fans, and you don’t get to see their reactions too much. So to be able to come here and get hands on, and see their faces, it’s incredible.”
And Lewis did get to see the reactions of fans, young and old, as he and several young fans pulled Mandrakes out of their potted plants and then threw Quaffles through the hoops in a game of Quidditch. As the character of Neville Longbottom has matured, so has Lewis.
“When I first started, when I was 11, Neville and I weren’t too dissimilar to be honest. I was quite shy. When I was at school I definitely wasn’t top of the class and when I was at school I never spoke up in a crowded room.” said Lewis. “As Neville grew up in confidence and maturity, I guess I did as well. He’s a character who a lot of people can really look at for inspiration. He did not have a good start in life and he’s really struggled, but through all of that he’s really come through. It’s something that I admire in him in a character and I tried to be like him a little bit.”
Other parts of the exhibit feature the Forbidden Forest, Dark Forces, the Great Hall and Hagrid’s Hut.
Hagrid’s Hut features a very large chair that visitors are allowed to sit in, and the Great Hall with it’s floating candles is as close to the real thing as it can get.
And this exhibit is a tribute, to the crafts people and to the artisans of the books and movies, according to Fontaine.
“It’s not all physics and chemistry and biology, it’s about human creativity and this is the finest example of that I’ve ever seen,” he said. “To go from one person’s mind to a world that has transformed millions of people, when you look at the detail on any of the exhibits, or the littlest prop, you can see artisans, crafts people, engineers, really went to a lot of work to create this work.”
Lewis loves the fact that the world he’s spent the last nine years in can finally come to life for fans everywhere.
“Maybe in 40 years I might look back and say, ‘Wow, that was incredible,'” he said. “Right now I’m just riding this roller coaster and absolutely loving it. I mean, like I said, I was a huge fan. … To be here nine years later with a role like Neville and promoting this exhibition is pretty crazy.”
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: Harry Potter: The Exhibition
WHERE: Museum of Science, 1 Science Park, Boston.
WHEN: Runs through Feb. 21, 21010
HOURS: Saturday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
ADMISSION: Tickets can be purchased at the museum or by calling 617-723-2500. Combination admission to the museum and “Harry Potter” is: adults, $26; seniors, $24; children, $23 and museum members, $5.
This ran Nov. 1 , 2009 in The Eagle-Tribune Newspaper