'Harry Potter' and 'Battlestar Galactica' exhibits land in Seattle
Two major fantasy exhibits open in Seattle Saturday. "Harry Potter: The Exhibition," at the Pacific Science Center, is a dandy, featuring artifacts from the films. "Battlestar Galactica," at Experience Music Project | Science Fiction Museum, has three of the TV show's spaceships.
Seattle Times staff reporter
'Harry Potter: The Exhibition'Opens 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, runs through Jan. 30, 2011, Pacific Science Center, 200 Second Ave. N., Seattle; $17-$26 (206-443-2001 or www.pacsci.org).
'Battlestar Galactica: The Exhibition'Opens 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, runs through March 4, 2012, Experience Music Project | Science Fiction Museum, 325 Fifth Ave. N., Seattle; $12-$15 (206-770-2700 or www.empsfm.org).
There are witches and wizards on one end and space travelers and humanoid robots on the other.
Seattle hosts two mega-franchises-turned-exhibits, beginning this weekend. At the Pacific Science Center, "Harry Potter: The Exhibition" celebrates its stunning opening Saturday morning. Most early tickets are already sold out.
On the opposite side of Seattle Center, the world of the TV show "Battlestar Galactica" comes to life at Experience Music Project | Science Fiction Museum, complete with three original spaceships from the series.
First, you're sorted. A floppy black hat sings the name of your house: Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff or Slytherin. You file into a dark room, where eight screens play scenes from the films, and a witch with a British accent guides you past a steaming black replica of the Hogwarts Express.
Then you're on your own to explore "Harry Potter: The Exhibition."
The Pacific Science Center is the fourth venue — and the first on the West Coast — for this exhibit mounted by Global Experience Specialists (GES). At 10,000 square feet, it's one of the largest exhibits in the center's history. From the time of its Chicago debut in April 2009, the Science Center was in talks to host. It was lucky: GES has been inundated with requests from museums around the world.
It has flown in at the perfect time: the junction of the holiday season and release of the new film, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I," next month. At the exhibit, mere Muggles can see more than 400 original artifacts from the film series up close, divvied into scenes paired with movie clips.
The exhibit plays out like a day in the life of its young, magical characters. After passing the portrait gallery — yes, some move — you're in the Gryffindor common room, furnished with Harry's and Ron's beds, costumes and other trinkets. A trunk holds Harry's glasses, wand and the Marauders' Map, sketched with dainty calligraphic detail.
"You never get to see them close up because they're moving so fast in the film," said Eddie Newquist, chief creative officer for GES.
It's those little details that make the exhibit shine. You can see the notes Snape scribbled in Harry's potions book in "Half-Blood Prince" and the tests vain professor Gilderoy Lockhart gave his Defense Against the Dark Arts class in "Chamber of Secrets." One of the test questions: What is Gilderoy Lockhart's favorite color? (Answer: lilac.)
The classrooms melt into the outdoor scenes, which include Quidditch, Hagrid's hut and the Forbidden Forest. Then, of course, there's a section devoted to dark forces: Tom Riddle's diary, stabbed with the basilisk's fang, and Voldemort's costume, with its fabric like snakeskin.
The exhibit even features some surprises from the final films Potter fans haven't seen yet.
"We tried to pick artifacts that people would have an emotional connection to," Newquist said.
It worked. The Science Center's marketing director, Crystal Clarity, couldn't believe she was seeing Harry's acceptance letter to Hogwarts, one of her favorite elements of the exhibit.
"That's where the story began, with that letter," Clarity said. "It makes it all seem real."
After "Battlestar Galactica" went off the air last year, NBC Universal held a huge auction. Thousands of artifacts from the show, including five spaceships, needed new homes.
None of them sold.
The spaceships were parked in a warehouse in California until NBC called Experience Music Project | Science Fiction Museum and asked if they wanted them. The answer was an emphatic yes.
Over the past year and a half, associate curator Brooks Peck has molded the fantasy world that is EMP | SFM's "Battlestar Galactica: The Exhibition," opening Saturday. Three of the five spaceships anchor the exhibit. The rest of the props — 50 total, with about a third from the original series — are from other collectors.
The latest incarnation of "Battlestar Galactica" debuted in 2004, a reboot of the 1978 series. The militaristic space drama follows a fleet of human survivors of a nuclear holocaust at the hands of the Cylons, a robot race they created and continue to war with. The humans are on a quest for Earth, a planet that is merely a myth.
The impressive silvery spaceships — made out of steel, plywood and Styrofoam — now nest valiantly in the museum, ringed by fiber-optic barriers. They're probably the biggest draw, though Peck guesses another fan favorite will be the slinky red dress worn by a Cylon named Six, one of 15 costumes.
Three interactive areas let visitors explore some of the show's themes, such as the search for Earth, complete with a glowing green navigation board. There's also a music display, where people can play a scene and manipulate its score.
After 18 months in Seattle, EMP | SFM plans to send the exhibit on the road.
Peck says part of "Battlestar's" pull is that it's not wacky sci-fi fluff. It tells the story of how to maintain humanity in the face of war. He points to a costume worn by the Cylon character Leoben in the episode "Flesh and Bone," where he's captured trying to infiltrate a human ship.
"They torture him horribly," Peck said. "Their justification is that he's a robot, so it's OK."
But even though Leoben isn't human, he can still feel pain. So the humans are faced with a huge moral dilemma.
That, says Peck, is the crux of the show: to get people thinking about tough questions.
"All of the time, it's pushing you out of your comfort zone," Peck said. "So it's perplexing. It's doing what sci-fi does so well: holding a warped mirror up to our reality."
Rachel Solomon: 206-464-3272 or email@example.com
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