Harry Potter and Hogwarts head to So. Hadley
Thursday night at 7 p.m., Mount Holyoke College opened it doors to witches and wizards alike, dressed in their finest spellbinding garb. Upon entering, the atmosphere was filled with a deep, cavernous hall packed with a loud and bubbly audience, clearly brimming with anticipation of a truly magical night.
This was the opening party for a new exhibit – Harry Potter’s World: Renaissance Science, Magic, and Medicine. Held in Williston Library Court surrounded by gothic architecture at Mount Holyoke, with its quintessentially enchanting stone buildings and generally mystical ambiance, the setting felt like a real-life replica of the Hogwarts castle.
“I think it’s great,” said Johanna Rogers, a freshman at Mount Holyoke, of the spectacle. “I heard about the event through advertisements on Facebook, and I was excited for weeks.”
Another Mount Holyoke student, Lisaurel Winfree, dressed as a Gryffindor student for the night’s events, “I actually just found out about this a couple of nights ago, so I threw this together. Everyone was getting really into dressing up.”
The Party featured an acoustic performance from Harry and the Potters, an indie rock band from Norwood, Mass., which categorizes its music as “wizard rock.” The two brothers who make up the band looked, perhaps intentionally, like good-natured fifteen- year-old boys, dressed in white oxford shirts and wearing gold and maroon striped ties, much like the fabled uniform of Hogwarts. The crowd was mesmerized, as they loudly chanted their Harry Potter series-inspired lyrics.
One of the brothers, Joe DeGeorge, spoke as though he were Harry Potter himself about the group’s lyrics: “This is about a book I met in my sixth year.” The chorus of the lyrics included the lines “this book is awesome, I can become a Potions King.” Another song about Ginny Weasley included the lyrics “Are you petrified of being petrified?”
Though Harry and the Potters was able to excite the crowd, Caitlin Utter, a student at Mount Holyoke felt the duo were less than wizards when it came to music.
“I mean, they’re pretty funny to watch perform, but I think one of them forgot the lyrics at one point and that’s why he asked the crowd to sing along,” she said.
The Potter World opening night also featured a costume contest, with categories ranging from Best Witch or Wizard to Best Death Eater and Best Magical Creature. Each winner was rewarded with a prize from the school.
A woman wearing a pig nose and holding a wand acted as the Master of Ceremonies for the night. As she announced the Best Witch category, a small group of girls wandered timidly to the stage. The microphone was passed through the line of contestants as they introduced themselves. Costumes included Luna Lovegood, Tonks, Cho Chang, and two Hermiones, one of whom was only eight-years-old. The winners were judged based on the volume the crowd reached as their name was called. The eight-year-old Hermione won by a landslide.
After the costume contest, Harry and the Potters took the stage once more. They ended the night with a lullaby about the tender relationship between Harry and his mentor Dumbledore. As they chanted “Dumbledore will fight for you tonight,” the crowd erupted into applause.
Mount Holyoke’s Williston Library Court was one of 12 libraries nationwide selected by the American Library Association Public Programs Office to host the Potter-palooza. The American Library Association partnered with The National Library of Medicine to create a traveling version of the exhibit to send to each library.
Nora Mariano, the curator of primary sources at Mount Holyoke, spoke on why her school was chosen.
“The libraries chosen had to fulfill certain criteria,” she said. “Mount Holyoke was at an advantage because of the gothic look, appearing much like a building out of Hogwarts. The staircases are stone and cavernous. Also, Mount Holyoke has a strong Renaissance Science department.”
Jennifer Gunter King, head of archives and special collections at Mount Holyoke, elaborated on what strokes of the wand it took to bring Hogwarts to Mount Holyoke.
“The planning of the event began the spring of 2009,” she said. “We hope to see many students, faculty and staff in the first-glimpse of the exhibit.”
The exhibit focuses on the connections between Harry Potter’s world and links to Renaissance practices, thinkers, and lore. Though the books are fiction, parts of J.K. Rowling’s stories are based on traditions of the Renaissance. Traditions such as alchemy, astrology, and philosophy are present in the novels. Mount Holyoke plans to explore the Renaissance history tie-in through primary source. Hosting a seven-part series, the college will explore ethical issues including the desire for knowledge, the responsibility that comes with power, and effects that prejudice has.
The exhibition is free and open to the public. Along with the main exhibit will be other features. This weekend and next weekend, the Abbey Chapel will host a choral performance from Michael Maier’s Atalanta Fugiens. Maier was a German alchemist, and the choir will be adapting his Atalanta Fugiens, a published book that held images, poems and fifty pieces of music.
In late February, Associate Professor of Chemistry W. Donald Cotter will be hosting a lecture titled “Alchemy and the Progressive Imagination at Mount Holyoke, 1912.” He will speak on the impact of alchemy on progressive and modern chemistry. Other features require early registration. In February will be two Harry Potter Book Discussions. The event is free but requires early registration.
The exhibit will be on display at Mount Holyoke beginning Thursday, Jan. 28 and running through Friday, Feb. 26.
Michelle Williams can be reached at email@example.com. Phoebe Glick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.