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Lumos! Exhibition at MSI Sheds New Light on Harry Potter Movies

By Marcus Gilmer in Arts & Entertainment on Apr 30, 2009 4:00PM

There's a new, magical exhibition brewing at the Museum of Science & Industry, and it's sure to please Potter-philes and non-fans alike. Comprised of over 200 costumes and props used in the filming of the movie adaptations, the Harry Potter Exhibition, opening today and running through September 27, gives visitors an up-close look at the fantastical world that hasn't been offered before. Though "exhibition" isn't quite the right word so much as "experience." Beginning with a session with the Sorting Hat (I was sorted into Ravenclaw), the exhibition is laid out in stages, guiding you through the experience of a student attending Hogwarts, the famous wizard school. From the Gryffindor common room, through the Quidditch field, Hagrid's Hut, and even the Forbidden Forest, the exhibition is as thoughtfully laid out and created as the props and costumes themselves. With video screens showing clips from the movies creating atmosphere (and context for non-fans), it's a completely engrossing experience. (The exhibition also features an optional audio tour.) Besides the numerous costumes on display, props on display include the Marauder's Map, the Triwizard Cup, the Sorcerer's Stone, Qudditch equipment, and some of the mystical creatures that populate the Harry Potter universe such as Buckbeak the Hippogriff, Fawkes the phoenix, and even a Dementor.

One of the best things about the exhibition is that it allows an up-close look at the intricacies and details of the props and costumes. Take for Lucious Malfoy's costume from The Chamber of Secrets. Small details like the snake's head belt buckles and serpent-shaped cloak buttons add a new dimension to the character. It also underscores the work and effort that goes into creating a universe (any universe, not just the Harry Potter one) for film. The smallest detail on costumes and props can now be seen up close, even props never fully seen on film, like comic books, literature, and t-shirts. You don't have to be a fan of the series to appreciate the craftsmanship. Eddie Newquist, President of the Creative Studio of Exhibitgroup/Giltspur which worked with the MSI and Warner Bros. on the exhibition, said, "We felt inspired by how much detail and how much work these artisans and craftspeople put into bringing this world to life."

Newquist said preliminary talks with Warner Bros. about the exhibition began three years ago with heavy production beginning two years ago. The Museum of Science and Industry isn’t just the world premiere of the exhibition, it’s also the lone Midwest date on the tour. “It’s an amazing museum, one of the best in the world, so it was natural for us to have conversations,” Newquist said.

On how they decided which props and costumes to use, Newquist said, “That was a tough decision. The films are in active production right now. We sat down in many planning sessions and talked about what we would like to see in an exhibition like this from a fan’s perspective and from our own perspective.” Because the films are still in production - there are several costumes and props from the as-yet-released Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince movie (due this summer) - Newquist said, “Doing flashbacks, they weren’t sure which elements they could release and which they couldn’t.” He also confirmed once filming on the final movie begins, there could be props and costumes that are swapped out, though he also said that as the exhibition tours over the next five years, it will be ever-evolving. “It will change and will be modified to highlight new elements in the film series.”

Another advantage of the ticket price is that admission to the Museum is included in the price and throughout the exhibit’s stay, science demonstrations related to the exhibit will take place in the museum rotunda each day. Anne Rashford, the Museum’s director of temporary exhibits, said, “During the run, we’re going to have hands-on science demonstrations. There’s ‘The Magic of Chemistry’ and we’ll have an experiment where we’ll be dissecting owl pellets so you get the better understanding of where the owl has been and what they’ve eaten.” Another experiment, Rashford says, will involve tasting jelly beans of different flavors - a la the Potterverse’s Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans - to, “get a better understanding of how smell and taste work together.”

For those planning on attending, Museum reps stress the importance of buying tickets ahead of time. Tickets can be bought on the Museum’s website for all future dates and times. Each ticket is for a timed entry and while there will be plenty of chances to get in, the possibility of sell outs loom, particularly during the summer. And, again, admission to the Museum is included in the ticket for the exhibition and with timed entries, there’s no waiting in line; just arrive at the exhibition entrance at the time indicated on your ticket and you’ll be escorted right in. The exhibit runs during the Museum's hours and the MSI is offering extended night hours just for the Potter exhibition. Museum Hours are Monday-Saturday: 9:30 a.m. - 4 p.m., and Sunday: 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. and from May 22 through September 7, the Museum has Summer Hours, which are Monday-Saturday: 9:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. and Sunday: 11 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.

The Harry Potter Exhibition, Museum of Science and Industry, 57th Street and Lake Shore Drive, April 30 - September 27, 2009

During Regular Museum Hours: $26 for adults, $25 for seniors, $19 for children ages 3-11

Exhibition Extended Evening Hours (From Museum close until 9 p.m., every night) & Museum Free Days (June 1-5, June 19): $18 for adults and seniors, $15 for children ages 3-11