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Davis, California

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Happy Birthday Harry!

An exhibit in Shields Library celebrates the 21st anniversary of the first Harry Potter book

UC Davis students have been invited to the Harry Potter exhibit at Shields Library on campus. From now until March 2019, students can visit and check out various items on display in honor of the famous “Harry Potter” series by J.K Rowling.

Subject Specialist Librarian Roberto Delgadillo prepared the exhibit with the assistance of Bibliographic Consultant Karen McCoy. The focus of the exhibit, called “Harry Potter Turns 21!,” was to honor the books in a way that appreciates both the phenomenon of and academic sides of the world that J.K. Rowling created. By showcasing the exhibit in this way, those visiting can learn more about the series through various viewpoints.

To relate UC Davis to the book series, selected materials including a 700-page Harry Potter bibliography, critical review essays and an 85 page bibliography that contains academic scholarship were chosen to reflect the disciplines one would see in university. Souvenirs from The Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park in Universal Studios, a Marauder’s Map, parchment, a golden snitch and even a mini replica of the Sorting Hat can be found as well.

“It’s not just books and things but it’s also things that people can kind of tangibly discover,” McCoy said.

On June 26th, 1997, 21 years ago, “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” was first published by the Bloomsbury company. In the series, the character Harry Potter was actually born on July 31, 1980. Since then, the Harry Potter series has grown in popularity and represents different concepts and concerns that connect to people of all backgrounds and disciplines. It has also created a strong fanbase that has built a vast community of “devotees,” according to McCoy and Delgadillo.  

The two specialists say that the series raises topics ranging from discrimination, race, gender, sexual relations and more.

“If you read between the lines, you begin to see that, oh, this is just not merely the story of a boy who’s trying to make his way in the world but that there are other underpinnings here,” Delgadillo said.

Delgadillo cited one example of more complex topics in how Hermione is often dismissed because she is a female mudblood.

“Ironically enough, she’s the one who has got it most together,” Delgadillo said.

“Mudblood” is a derogatory term used in the books that references wizards whose parents are “muggles,” or ordinary humans. This idea relates closely to forms of racism that some can relate to outside of the book.

“I think [when it comes to] J.K Rowling and her story, she has a lot of academic background that she brings to this, which is great, but she also brings that capacity for empathy that is so necessary and why books and fiction are so necessary,” McCoy said.

One aspect of the series that makes it unique is the ways in which Rowling really “fleshes out” her characters, according to McCoy.

“There has only been one full book character study and that’s on Snape and that’s in the exhibit,” McCoy said. “He carries around what’s really true about himself but he doesn’t want to reveal that to anybody. And isn’t that so true of all of us? We don’t really want to reveal the best of ourselves for fear of what have you.”

Another way the series is uniquely tied to UC Davis is through wine.

“There’s a connection to the fact that one of the people associated with our wine collections is actually connected to the Bloomsbury publishing,” Delgadillo said.

While the exhibit touches on many academic ways of reading the texts, it is also meant to be fun and whimsical, allowing fans to relate to aspects of the book in real life. The exhibit stands in the very front of the library, so that the wizarding world seems to grab the attention of the students upon entry.

Get those wands ready and take a break from studying to check out this interactive and educational exhibit. Beside each book and item follows a brief description of its significance to the display as a whole and what it is about. Even present are the 3D printed items that McCoy herself put together and shared for the exhibit. Students can “expecto” see a lot of interesting things to celebrate 21 years of this iconic series.


Written by: Sierra Burgueno— features@theaggie.org



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