Harry Potter and the Magical Muggle Museum: A Fan Event
Harry Potter and the Magical Muggle Museum” (HPMMM) is an immersive day-long fan experience presented annually at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Hosted by 50 undergraduate students from an anthropology class at PENN, the event attracts thousands of costumed and in-character visitors of all ages who have practiced Quidditch, made wands and charms, attended classes and exams (Potions, Divination, Defense Against the Dark Arts, Latin for Wizards, Spells, History of Magic), played life-size wizard chess, navigated a maze, joined S.P.E.W. or the Death Eaters, been sorted in houses, listened to Wizard Rock, explored a Diagon Alley set, or met live magical creatures from local zoos.
The HPMMM event was designed with three goals in mind: to attract new visitors to the museum, to give undergraduates a fan culture experience, and to connect the ancient and anthropological collections of the museum with the world of Harry Potter. The first goal was achieved each of the past three years through extensive advertising, newspaper and television coverage, and social networking, and each year at least half of the surveyed visitors had never been to the museum in Philadelphia before.
The second goal was to introduce skeptical undergraduates to the wonders of fan culture which few would admit to having experienced. The student enrolled in “Mythology and the Movies” ranged from intense fans to complete novices in the world of Harry Potter. In preparation for the event, the students read J.K. Rowling's works, viewed Harry Potter films, read fan fiction, studied merchandise, viewed fan films, and analyzed fan websites. Each was assigned a character that they researched and had to enact on the day of the event. In their event evaluations, all the students expressed wonder at the commitment of the visiting fans and a renewed respect for fan culture.
The third goal of connecting the contemporary world of Harry Potter with academic research and collections was carried out through classes, lectures, museum tours, and scavenger hunts through the collections. Academics who have researched ancient Etruscan divination, the Maya 2012 prophesies, ancient Greek and Roman spells, the history of women and magic, and ancient Egyptian magic have all presented (in haracter) to enthusiastic audiences. Scavenger hunts, based on the research of anthropologist Dr. Louise Krasniewicz who has been studying the ancient magical artifacts in the museum, have led thousands of visitors into every gallery of the museum. A series of temporary exhibits on Harry Potter fan merchandise, Horcruxes, and Mr. Weasley's Muggle Artifacts further blurred the lines between academic and fan considerations of the world of magic.
This multi-media presentation by anthropologist Dr. Louise Krasniewicz, HPMMM event designer and coordinator as well as instructor for the fan culture course “Mythology and the Movies,” shows the event through extensive photographs and videos and descriptions of the preparations and actual experience. It considers the value of fan events for achieving educational and institutional goals as well as connecting the academic study of Harry Potter with the real-life experiences of Harry Potter fans.
Dr. Louise Krasniewicz is an anthropologist at the University of Pennsylvania who studies the imaginative and creative world of fan culture using anthropological tools and theories about ritual, mythology, narrative, performance, metaphor, costuming, and symbolism. She researches the connection between popular Hollywood movies and ancient mythologies and belief systems. Her current research also covers ancient and contemporary gaming and gambling as a form of ritual engagement with chance and fate. Her Harry Potter fan culture identity as Professor Pomona Sprout reflects her interest in plant mythology and in gardening.