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Exhibit curator and UC Davis subject specialist librarian Roberto Delgadillo (Pattie Chen/UC Davis Library).

Creating the Harry Potter Exhibit – A Curator’s Perspective

Twenty-one years after the publication of the first book, what makes the Harry Potter series so relevant that people are still studying its influence today? It’s all about connections according to exhibit curator and UC Davis subject specialist librarian Roberto Delgadillo. Since the first book was published in 1997, Harry Potter has become a worldwide phenomenon that has bonded readers, scholars and fans together from across different cultures and backgrounds.

UC Davis was among the first libraries in the UC system to start collecting Harry Potter books and related academic material more than a decade ago. This exhibit includes books, images, models and articles that highlight the impact of the Harry Potter series in academic literature. In addition, the exhibit contains works that influenced J.K. Rowling’s writing.

For Delgadillo, this exhibit is a way to celebrate how the Harry Potter series has grown over the years.

With a vast amount of literature related to Harry Potter, Delgadillo used over 80 sources to create his exhibit.

“You have to be extremely selective when it comes Harry Potter,” he says about the process of choosing what to include in the exhibit.

That being said, the exhibit encompasses a wide variety of disciplines including religious studies, education, philosophy, law, medicine, society and culture, and the arts.

Academic materials that can also be fun

Though most people might not associate Harry Potter with academic literature, Delgadillo aims to change that perception through this exhibit.

The collections we have are a reflection of the connections between academic literature and topics we normally don’t associate with academia. This exhibit is a reminder that the library has academic materials that can also be fun.

—Librarian and exhibit curator Roberto Delgadillo

Taking this idea further, Delgadillo explains how this exhibit relates to UC Davis students.

“There’s an expectation when you enter college that you must approach research and reading seriously,” Delgadillo commented. “Students are expected to put away silly books to make room for academic reading…but it is my job is to provide something that can also be enjoyable for students.”

A lasting brand

So why do so many people study and write about Harry Potter? Delgadillo attributes part of it to the success of Rowling’s brand. Her brand is something that drives markets, so naturally people want to know what makes her brand so popular.

“When you have a large number of dissertations, articles and conference papers, it is a healthy sign that this phenomenon won’t stop,” Delgadillo remarked. “This cultural phenomenon that happened over 20 years ago keeps coming back. It’s a phenomenon people will continue to visit and revisit.”


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