Murray State welcomes magic on campus

By Gisselle Hernandez, Features Editor

A trail of magic, beloved by many, can be found in one of Wrather Museum’s exhibition rooms until Nov. 4.

Wrather West Kentucky Museum is hosting an exhibit titled “Harry Potter’s World: Renaissance, Science, Magic and Medicine.” The exhibition, which uses materials from the National Library of Medicine, features six 7-foot one-inch panels with information on the topics in the seven-part series that are said to be drawn from 15th and 16th century ideas on Renaissance and science.

Sarah Hopley, special collections and exhibit librarian, submitted an application to have the traveling exhibit at Murray State in January. She said the reason for booking it was to update Wrather and bring things that are more exciting and interesting to those other than history majors. The panels and lectures that will be held over the course of six weeks, will highlight the comparisons in Renaissance times and J.K. Rowling’s references to them.

“You can learn more about Harry Potter – which I think most people love – and then you can see where J.K. Rowling got her inspiration from,” she said. “It also brings you into a building that maybe you didn’t know existed on campus or that you hadn’t been in for 20 or 30 years.”

Because of the collective love for the magical series, Hopley said it makes it easier for others to be interested in how the themes are tied into real life.

“Harry Potter spans the ages; from adults who really love Harry Potter to kids today who really love Harry Potter,” she said.

Hopley said because of this, she thinks the National Library of Medicine’s reason for the exhibition was easy since all they had to do was take information that they knew and add on potions and herbology and tie it into something that was interesting.

“So you’re teaching people about things that maybe they would have never thought of but point them in through something they’re interested in, like Harry Potter,” she said.

Nicole King, graduate student from Hopkinsville, Kentucky, said she was one of those Potterheads who grew up with Rowling’s books.

“My friends call me Hermione,” she said. “I connected with that character since I’m a know-it-all. I love to learn, so every time I see this stuff like this I’m like ‘oh, this is how it applies to the real world.’”

King said the exhibition is a good way to bring in new people who wouldn’t otherwise understand or necessarily relate to the series.

“I understand a lot people are into Harry Potter like, ‘Oh, I love this book,’ but they don’t actually know how it does connect to the real world, how J.K. Rowling used history all the time,” King said. “She drew from real-world experiences, from people in the Dark Ages and how they viewed the world to create her own world. It connects to everything.”

The Harry Potter exhibit is Wrather’s first national exhibit and Hopley said in the fall of 2018, they are excited to welcome an exhibit from the Smithsonian, “Hometown Teams.”

The exhibits displayed at Wrather are often funded by both donations and the university, depending on the exhibition, Hopley said. Because Murray State is not near a lot of things, Hopley said shipping can get expensive very quickly.

During the time the exhibit sits at Wrather, there will be other Potter-related activities going on around campus like a Quidditch match hosted by the Honors college, a Harry Potter-themed party for kids featuring owls from Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area and lectures from different professors on the themes and Renaissance references found in the series.