Magic comes to campus: Laupus Library brings in Harry Potter exhibit

The world of magic and the world of medicine have collided on campus. The William E. Laupus Health Sciences Library is currently hosting a traveling exhibit from the U.S. National Library of Medicine entitled “Harry Potter’s World: Renaissance, Science, Magic and Medicine.”

Kelly Dilda, public relations specialist for Laupus Library, was instrumental in bringing the exhibit to ECU. Dilda said the exhibit has been in existence since 2008, but is just now coming to campus.

“We’ve been on the waiting list for this Harry Potter exhibit for a couple of years, actually,” said Dilda. “So we’ve been waiting for quite a while.”

The exhibit was of interest to Laupus Library because of its medical relevance to campus.

“This exhibit dives a little bit more into the science and magic and medicine behind Harry Potter’s world,” Dilda said. “They talk about the Renaissance traditions that played important roles in development of western science.”

The Harry Potter exhibit consists of six freestanding panels that each focus on an aspect of J.K. Rowling’s fictional universe and connects it to real world historical medicine. The six panels are potions, monsters, herbology, magical creatures, fantastic beasts and immortality.

The library also has complementary displays on the second, third and fourth floors, as well as in its history collection. These displays include books about natural plant remedies from this era.

The potions panel covers the events of the first book and the real-life Nicholas Flamel. It focuses on alchemy and Flamel’s attempts to create the Philosopher’s Stone and achieve immortality.

The monsters panel centers animals like the basilisk from “Chamber of Secrets” and dragons. Swiss naturalist and physician Konrad Gesner and his book on zoology are featured prominently. Gesner and his contemporaries believed that such creatures existed and he categorized their medicinal uses.

The herbology panel talks about medical applications of plants, such as the mandrake. It explains that while the mandrake is a real plant, 15th century scholars believed that the roots took on a human form.

The magical creatures panel spotlights unicorns and uses for their horns. Doctors during the Renaissance era believed that powdered unicorn horn was a useful antidote to several poisons.

Fantastic beasts are a panel about differing cultures. The panel cites merpeople and centaurs as part-human creatures that are forced to live on segregated lands and are discriminated against.

Paracelsus, a 16th century physician and alchemist, argued against many medical practices of the day and believed that other cultures could teach him new healing practices that weren’t as dangerous as things like blood-letting.

The last panel, immortality, mentions Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim. Nettesheim was a physician and occultist who believed that magic could be manipulated by those who respected nature.

The exhibit is located on the fourth floor of the library and will run through July 19. It is free and open to the public.


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