PEEK into ‘Harry potter: the exhibition’

Photo by Emily Piper Student Publications

Beginning with “Bridgerton” and moving to “Stranger Things,” Atlanta has seen a rise in experiences that immerse fans into their favorite shows and films. The newest of these, “Harry Potter: The Exhibition,” allows Atlantans the opportunity to teleport into the wizarding world by traveling through the most notable settings throughout the series. 

Any “Harry Potter” fan would be excited to get a peek into its world.

The exhibition is catered towards pre-existing “Harry Potter” fans, specifically those of the films. Every room was a replica of the environment in the movies, from the Herbology greenhouse to Professor Umbridge’s office. Most visitors wore their “Harry Potter” costumes, from styling themselves in house colors to being draped in Hogwarts robes. 

The experience is truly a personal journey, allowing each person the freedom to take as long as they want. Rather than being in groups, the exhibition is self-guided without any interference from the staff. The general tour takes between one to two hours. The weekends are busier and cause a longer wait to enter, however, that is the only wait throughout the experience. 

Each guest is given a “golden snitch” wristband that acts as the immersive key to activities throughout the exhibition. Beginning with creating a profile, each visitor takes a photo of themselves and chooses their Hogwarts house.

The exhibition has a competition between the houses, just as the “Harry Potter” world does. The more activities completed by tapping the wristband against a posted golden snitch, the more points one earns for their house.

The idea of each visitor getting a personalized profile is great, however, the exhibition seems to have missed the opportunity to connect it with the official Wizarding World quiz. The quiz asks a series of questions that assess which house each person should be assigned to, just as the Sorting Hat does within the films. This way, the exhibit’s house competition would become more of a game with equal teams as well as set the mood for the tour.

The path starts by walking past the Hogwarts’ Wall of Paintings and into a room with all four houses. Each room is accompanied by a large panel that introduces the setting, major events that took place, notable Hogwarts alumni or props and the design focus. A huge emphasis throughout the exhibit was on learning the thought process and concept behind the designs of both settings as well as character costumes. 

Movie memorabilia were displayed behind glass within each room, such as the Sorting Hat within the house rooms, and

Luna Lovegood’s outfit and well-known items in following alcoves. Along with costumes, such as Lovegood’s, there were many character design drafts posted to the wall to depict the initial costume sketch and a blurb explaining the concepts the clothing had to embody. All the main character’s film costumes were displayed throughout the tour, starting with Harry, Ron and Hermne’s, and ending with Voldemort’s. 

Arguably the most exceptional aspect of the exhibit falls on the set design of the rooms itself. Rather than mimicking a museum that looks the same but has different pieces on display, the tour transforms from the Great Hall with floating candles on the ceilings and walls appearing lined by stone to later the Forbidden Forest with dragons and leaves climbing the trees. 

One truly feels a part of the film, as if walking through the grounds of Hogwarts. There are also photo ops within different rooms, such as in Hagrid’s hut, Professor Umbridge’s office and in Newt Scamander’s briefcase.

Although there are a range of tickets to choose from, any fan would be satisfied with the general admission. There is little difference between the quality of experience for the tickets, as long as you factor in an initial wait time to enter the tour. Tickets come with additional add-ons to consider, such as an audio tour or special lanyards. However, there are more than enough souvenirs and merchandise to balance this out at the cafe or gift shop at the end of the exhibition. As with every exhibit, most shop items are on the pricier side. However, most visitors expect to spend more money for these types of trips. While a bottle of Butterbeer was $10, this is not something you can get anywhere and calls for a special occasion.

The exhibition is a fun way to imagine yourself within the world of “Harry Potter,” however, it is only geared towards veterans of the series. There are no overviews that explain the stories or characters. It was surprising there were only a few references to the storyline, so anyone new to “Harry Potter” might walk around confused. There is a large group of “Harry Potter” fans, so the exhibition would not struggle finding guests, but it does limit its audience and restrict a new group of fans from growing. 

A common theme throughout the exhibit and especially in the gift shop is the focus on targeting families and children. With the movies coming out in the early 2000s to the early 2010s, the demographic of fans who grew up with the movies would have been late teenagers and early adults. Most of the interactive activities, although cute, were very simple and seemed aimed at small children rather than those older. This made the immersive technology aspect of the exhibition slightly disinteresting. Despite this, the ability to actively participate in the exhibition from practicing spells to making potions helped maintain a feeling of immersion throughout the tour.

The exhibition as a whole is an enjoyable time, especially for fans of the franchise as well as those interested in character and costume design. There is a large focus on the movies’ costumes, props and settings rather than the narrative, but that is something new to “Harry Potter” fans.  One truly feels immersed while walking the halls of Hogwarts and seeing the detail in major props, such as the Golden Egg from “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” or Voldemort’s Horcruxes. The detail and cohesion of each room mirrored the sensation of seeing them on-screen.  

So, if you are a die-hard fan of “Harry Potter” or interested in exploring the Wizarding World through props and exhibitions from behind the scenes, grab a ticket and head on over. However, if you are just a general fan of the franchise and want to leave the story to the movies, skip the magic of the exhibition.