Bringing Hogwarts to Gainesville: Harry Potter fans celebrate new exhibit

Alex Britch, 4, paints with a feather during the grand opening of the University of Florida’s Health Science Center Library“Harry Potter’s World: Renaissance Science, Magic, and Medicine. Photo by Maria Belen Farias

The wizards dressed to represent their selected house, some donning silver and green for Slytherin, others clad in Gryffindor’s crimson and gold, Ravenclaw’s blue and bronze or Hufflepuff’s black and yellow. Above them on the staircase, a woman wearing a black robe and wizard’s hat cleared her throat and began to speak.

“Nitwit. Blubber. Oddment. Tweak,” said Nina Stoyan-Rosenzweig, M.A., quoting Professor Dumbledore’s famous phrase from “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”

With those words, so began the grand opening celebration for “Harry Potter’s World: Renaissance Science, Magic and Medicine” in the University of Florida Health Science Center Library Sept. 6. The National Library of Medicine exhibit, which opened Aug. 28, explores author J.K. Rowling’s magical world by examining its origins in science and medicine.

“Rowling pulls a lot out of history to make her world authentic,” said Stoyan-Rosenzweig, director of the Medical Humanities Program in the University of Florida College of Medicine. “We decided to explore its relevance to medicine.”

UF students, faculty and families from the community came out for the three-hour opening celebration, which featured science demonstrations, giveaways, crafts, the UF Quidditch Team and bowls of butterbeer.

“The butterbeer tastes exactly like the one in the theme park,” said Isha Choksi, a UF freshman.

Wearing a Harry Potter costume, complete with Gryffindor tie and round glasses, 7-year-old Evan Pollack attended the grand opening with his mom, Amy. Evan began reading the Harry Potter series at age 4 and only recently grew into his costume. His mom found out about the event through a friend’s Facebook post and, noting Evan’s love for the series, decided to attend.

“We worry the books may be too advanced for him,” Pollack said. “So we try to give him age-appropriate exposure.”

At the grand opening celebration, he was most excited to make a wand and quill. Other children were fascinated with the various “potions” created during the science demonstrations, including a clear, cloudy substance they could touch.

The exhibit will be at the HSC library until Oct. 4 and is accompanied by a speaker series, which includes lectures from UF faculty, and screenings of select Harry Potter films through Oct. 30. For more information, visit