Harry Potter at the Hogwarts Library (aka Falk Library of the Health Sciences)

For six weeks, Falk Library masqueraded as the Hogwarts School Library as we hosted Harry Potter’s World: Renaissance Science, Magic and Medicine, a travelling exhibit produced by the National Library of Medicine, and coordinated by the American Library Association. Several hundred students, faculty and visitors toured the exhibit, posed next to the life-sized picture of Professor Albus Dumbledore, and tried their luck at the Harry Potter trivia quiz.

On February 22, Stephen Greenberg, PhD, coordinator of Public Services, History of Medicine Division, National Library of Medicine, entertained nearly 200 attendees with his intriguing connections between Renaissance science and medicine and the Harry Potter series. Many historical materials are conceptually linked to the fictional world created by author J.K. Rowling. For instance, alchemist Nicolas Flamel, who is featured in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, was a real 15th-century scholar whose experiments with metals influenced the development of modern chemistry. Paracelsus, who appears as a sculpture in Harry Potter, was a 16th-century physician and alchemist notorious for criticizing the medical practices of his time. The lecture was followed by a reception co-hosted by Falk Library and the C.F. Reynolds Medical History Society.

In March, Sylvia Pamboukian, PhD, assistant professor of English Studies at Robert Morris University, visited the exhibit and spoke on the ways in which medical materials of the Renaissance were perceived as part of a larger, ritualistic process incorporating material, environment, practitioner, and patient. Dr. Pamboukian also discussed the ways in which such practices were perceived at the time, particularly the fears about witches and wizards.

Also in March, Lori M. Campbell, PhD, lecturer, Department of English, University of Pittsburgh, visited to talk about a chapter from her book, Portals of Power: Magical Agency and Transformation in Literary Fantasy (McFarland 2010). Using Harry Potter’s character as an example, Dr. Campbell discussed how the concept of the gateway or ‘portal’ between real and magical worlds operates in contemporary fantasy writing. Her talk demonstrated the ways in which magical nexus points and movement between these worlds are used throughout the 7-volume Harry Potter series to illustrate real-world power dynamics.

On March 26, the exhibit moved on to its next destination, and Hogwarts School Library reverted back to its previous identity as Falk Library of the Health Sciences. Thanks to all who visited the exhibit and attended the lectures. The Exhibit Committee (Renae Barger, Jonathon Erlen, Leslie Czechowski, Rebecca Abromitis, Barbara Epstein and Rhoda Ludin) hope you enjoyed attending the exhibit events as much as we enjoyed planning them.

Harry Potter event photos
Please visit our Facebook Photo Album for more event pictures.

Congratulations to our contest winners: out of 89 entries to the Harry Potter trivia quiz, only one person, Carlos Lopez from the School of Medicine, scored 100%, and was awarded a jar of Bertie Bott’s jelly beans. Sam Zolin, from the School of Arts and Sciences, won the raffle for a set of Harry Potter books. And Professor Dumbledore went home with Christina Jolley from the School of Nursing.

Harry Potter prize winners

~ Renae Barger