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The Stories Behind Harry Potter’s Magic

Evening Program

Wednesday, January 16, 2019 - 6:45 p.m.
Code: 1L0233
Phoenix illustration by Jim Kay; © Bloomsbury Publishing (New-York Historical Society)

Please Note: Due to the government shutdown, this program has changed locations. See travel information at the end of the description.

Ticket Price Note: Child price is for children aged 10-15 years old.

The extraordinary world that J.K. Rowling created in the very first Harry Potter book in 1997 has expanded into a universe that millions of readers and moviegoers have embraced. The roots of that world, though, reach far deeper in time, to cultural traditions of magic and folklore that have captivated imaginations for centuries.

Join curator Cristian Petru Panaite to learn how Harry Potter took his place in the ages-old quest for the fabled sorcerer’s stone. He delves into the real-world origins of some of Rowling’s literary fantasies as he connects the subjects studied at Hogwarts School with historical objects such as a 16th-century alchemical scroll; a 1699 celestial globe by famed cartographer Vincenzo Coronelli; a narwhal tusk; the first written record of the incantation “Abracadabra,” dating from the 13th century; rare medieval bestiaries with descriptions of dragons; and herbariums with instructions for safely harvesting a mandrake. 

Panaite is associate curator of exhibitions at the New-York Historical Society and coordinating curator for its presentation of Harry Potter: A History of Magic, organized by the British Library, running through January 27, 2019.


  • CUA Campus Map (Hannan Hall is located at D11 on map)
  • If you take Metro, closest station is Brookland-CUA on the red line. Staff will be on-hand at the station exit to escort guests to Hannan Hall at 6:15 and 6:30 p.m.
  • If you plan to drive, parking is available in the McMahon Parking Lot, adjacent to Hannan Hall. Please note that if you use Google maps (or Uber or Lyft), enter “McMahon Parking CUA,” for best results, otherwise it may direct you to the rear side of Hannan Hall that is not accessible.

Catholic University of America
Hannan Hall, Auditorium 108
620 Michigan Ave NE, Washington, DC