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LSU Libraries is currently hosting numerous exhibits detailing the history, art and literature that influenced the popular “Harry Potter” series of books by author J.K. Rowling. Pictured above, visitors will be able to view original copies of books printed as early as 1536 are on display in Hill Memorial Library’s lecture hall as part of the “Occult Science & Philosophy of the Renaissance” exhibit.

World of Harry Potter on Display at LSU Libraries

In 1997, British author J. K. Rowling introduced Harry Potter to the world and a literary phenomenon was born.

Now, the world of Harry Potter has come to LSU Libraries in a series of exhibits, including one created by University Laboratory High School and LSU School of Art students.

“Harry Potter’s World: Renaissance Science, Magic and Medicine” is an exceptional traveling exhibition chronicling the world of one of the most popular book series of all time. The exhibition — developed and produced by the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health and made available free of charge to selected libraries around the country — provides a different perspective for the Harry Potter story and its roots.

The exhibition, based on materials from the National Library of Medicine consists of free standing graphic panels, which will be on display in the lobby of Middleton Library through March 6. Admission to the exhibition is free.

“The National Library of Medicine asked us to coordinate activities to coincide with this exhibit,” said Peggy Chalaron, assistant librarian with LSU Libraries. “We’ve gathered our own materials for displays throughout the library.”

Although fantasy, the magic in the Harry Potter books is partially based on Renaissance traditions that played an important role in the development of Western science and medicine including alchemy, astrology and natural philosophy. Incorporating the work of several 15th- and 16th-century thinkers, “Harry Potter’s World” examines important ethical topics including the desire for knowledge, the effects of prejudice and the responsibility that comes with power.

Complementary exhibitions highlight resources from the LSU Libraries’ collections and reflect campus partnerships. There are several display sites in Middleton Library in addition to the main one in the lobby. The Government Documents Department has on display “Harry Potter: The Brand,” highlighting the variety of intellectual property involved as Harry Potter moved from a children’s story to an internationally recognized brand. The Carter Music Resources Center is displaying scores from some of the Harry Potter movies, including a children’s suite for orchestra.

Illustration of an apothecary lesson. - Hieronymus Brunschwig, Liber de Arte Distillandi de Compositis, 1512. Courtesy National Library of Medicine

Education Resources, also in Middleton Library, has partnered with students in Larry Livaudais’ Art 2050 class and Beverly Wilson’s art students at University Laboratory High School to present “Interpreting Harry Potter’s World: a Fantasy Retrospective,” which includes renderings of monsters, mythical creatures and herbaceous plants using traditional media as well as computer software. That Harry Potter’s world has stimulated imaginations since the first book was released is readily apparent in the art displayed.

“I gave them this assignment in the fall,” Livaudais said. “Peggy told us about the exhibit coming to the library, and I asked the students to design magical plants and animals that would exist in the Harry Potter world. I was amazed at what they came up with. Some of these pictures remind me of what you would see in the movie industry.”

Art 2050 is LSU’s catalog number for Livaudais’ Digital Art I class, the first class for students majoring in digital art within the LSU School of Art.

“A lot of the students were interested in alchemy,” said Michael Taylor, curator of books for LSU Libraries Special Collections who assisted in organizing the exhibition.

The students in both Livaudais’ digital art classes and Wilson’s high school art classes were challenged to create their own mythical plants and beasts. Livaudais, whose students used Adobe’s Photoshop editing program, said that he was pleased with the amount of energy and creativity the students devoted to the project and impressed with their level of engagement with the software.

“Anything is possible,” Livaudais said. “I set no constraints or restraints on the students. I let them create whatever they wanted, and it’s amazing.”

Wilson and student teacher Ana Storer agreed that the students’ opportunity to explore the realm of whimsical plants and creatures using a variety of media resulted in a unique body of work.

Nearly 100 pieces of art will be on display as part of the exhibit. Both the university and Baton Rouge communities are invited to visit the exhibit, which will be on display through March 6.

Meanwhile, an exhibition at LSU’s Hill Memorial Library explores the real-life history that inspired Rowling. “Occult Science & Philosophy of the Renaissance” will be on display in the library’s lecture hall. Visitors will be able to view original copies of books printed as early as 1536. Of special interest is the work of a Persian alchemist Gebert, who is thought to have initiated the search for the “philosopher’s stone,” which is included in a title in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Scientific references can be found in books dating to the 1500s on display in the exhibit. Gebert’s works can be found in the 1678 book, “La Somme de la Perfection.”

“He deliberately wrote in complicated style so people who weren’t familiar with science couldn’t understand it,” Taylor said of Gebert. “A lot of people believe his name to be the basis for the word ‘gibberish.’”

Other works on display in the Hill Memorial Library exhibit relate to alchemy, astrology and prophecy and exploring monsters and magical creatures.

The various components of the exhibition are available for viewing during core library hours. Middleton Library viewing hours are Monday-Thursday, 8 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.; Saturday, noon-4 p.m.; and Sunday, noon-10 p.m. Hill Memorial Library’s hours are Monday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Tuesday, 9 a.m.-8 p.m.; Wednesday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; and Saturday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

An online version of the panels on display in Middleton Library is available at The Web site also includes instructional resources for educators in middle schools, high schools and institutions of higher learning.

For additional information about displays in Middleton Library, please contact Peggy Chalaron at 225-578-7068 or e-mail

For more information about the display in Hill Memorial Library, please contact Michael Taylor at 225-578-6547 or e-mail


Aaron Looney | Editor | Office of Communications & University Relations
February, 2010