From June 24th, 2018 to January 21st, 2019, The Jewish Museum of Maryland will host Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini. The exhibit sounds like a must-see for fans of magic’s most iconic performer. To quote the museum’s description:
Inescapable, curated by local performer and magician David London, tells the story of how Ehrich Weiss became Harry Houdini and investigates the technologies, marketing prowess and entertainment trends that transformed him into a superstar. On one level, the exhibit is pure fun – incorporating magic, escapes, seances, films, rare artifacts and hands-on illusions. On a deeper level, the exhibit pulls back the curtain, revealing the story of the man behind the image.
The exhibit details the different stages of Houdini’s life, from his earliest days in Budapest to his untimely death and the mysteries surrounding it. The exhibit will also give visitors the opportunity to try out of some Houdini’s magic tricks, including the world’s smallest version of his vanishing elephant trick.
The museum is located at 15 Lloyd Street, Baltimore, MD, and is open from 10am to 5pm, Sunday through Thursday. Admission for non members is $10 for adults, $6 for students, $4 for children and $8 for seniors.
David Copperfield has been on a buying spree lately, using his status as the highest-paid magician in the industry to purchase up artifacts from the history of magic (like Harry Houdini’s bookcase) in order to preserve their legacy.
Rather than just hide them away in his house for his own personal amusement, he’s taken to Twitter to announce that he plans on sharing pieces from his collection every Wednesday with the hashtag #WednesdayWonders.
I feel a great responsibility in preserving the history of my art to help make the work of past masters last forever.
Every Wednesday I will share one object from my museum!
Please tell us in the comments what you would like to see! #WednesdayWonders Picture by @Forbes pic.twitter.com/dO64ZEfCG8
— David Copperfield (@D_Copperfield) December 20, 2017
Copperfield has given glimpses of his collection before, but this would be the first, real in-depth look individual pieces of a collection full of an entire generation of magic history, and the closest thing to getting an in-person, hands-on tour.
You can follow David Copperfield on Twitter via his handle @D_Copperfield, and if you have any suggestions or requests for what he should show off, you can let him know by responding to the tweet posted above.
Cornell University is currently hosting two exhibits from its collection that showcase the more mystical side of magic history. “The World Bewitch’d” exhibit opened on Halloween, and it includes books and documents chronicling the origin and spread of witchcraft in Europe. “Enchanted Asia” is the counterpart, focusing on depictions of sorcery from all over the neighboring continent.
“Bewitching often means casting spells on people so bad things happen,” said Carole Atkinson, from Cornell University Library’s Southeast Asia Collection. “The belief that you can cause evil things to happen to people and that there are means of protection against evil is common to many cultures.”
The amulets to ward off the evil eye, oracle bones, and witch-hunting manuals are a far cry from the illusions and stage magic we’re more familiar with today, but the history of this more spiritual angle is still a fascinating glimpse into how much the field has changed.
The announcement for the opening reception of The World Bewitch’d promises an online exhibit to come, but nothing is up on the university’s rare books library yet. Both run late into 2018, though, so history buffs will have to stay tuned for online availability.
Sometimes advertising can be art, and nowhere is that more true than the posters of the golden age of magic. From the late 19th-early 20th century, magicians used posters to proclaim their talents, advertise their shows, and give their powers of prestidigitation metaphorical weight with bold lines, striking colors, and loads of ethereal and supernatural imagery. If if you’re in Quebec between now and the first week of January, you can check out a whole collection of these original works of wonder.
Since May of this year, the McCord Museum has hosted Illusions: The Art of Magic, a collection of 600 posters from throughout the era, featuring advertisements for the acts of famous magicians of the era, like Carter, Thurston, Keller, and Houdini. These posters are on display along with over a thousand documents and books, featuring correspondence, flyers, notes, and more. This trove of magic history is known as the Allan Slaight Collection, and is one of the largest collections in Canada.
The exhibit will run until January 7, 2018, so act quickly if you want to see this collection while it’s available to the public. Visit the McCord Museum’s website for more information.
If you’re unable to visit the exhibit, you can purchase a hardcover art book named after the exhibit, featuring over 250 pieces from the collection, for $49.95.
No, Hogwarts isn’t real (no matter how much we wish it were), but that doesn’t mean there isn’t actual history behind the magic taught in its hallowed halls. And if you’re in London this winter, you can learn about the real-world magic and folklore that inspired J.K. Rowling’s beloved Harry Potter novels at the British Library in an exhibit entitled Harry Potter: A History of Magic.
The exhibit, in partnership with UK publisher Bloomsbury, compiles a variety of books, manuscripts, scrolls, and artifacts from across the globe detailing a cultural history of the arcane and mystical, along with never-before-seen glimpses at original notes and drafts of J.K. Rowling’s novels and illustrations by Jim Kay.
The centerpiece of the exhibit is the Ripley Scroll: a massive, 16th century document that gives instructions on how to build a Philosopher’s Stone, an alchemical device that could, according to legend, transmute metal into gold. Additional pieces include an ancient celestial globe for stargazing, Chinese oracle bones, the Battersea Cauldron, hand-painted drawings of mythical beasts, and much more.
The exhibit is launching to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the release of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (better known to Americans as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone). In an article written by the Los Angeles Times, lead curator Julian Harrison described the event as “a great way to actually mark [the anniversary], as well as explore the history of magic in a wider context.”
The main exhibit will run from October 20, 2017 to February 28, 2018 at the British Library in London. 20 public libraries throughout the United Kingdom will also feature displays containing pieces from the collection. Visit the official event page for more information on the exhibit and how you can book your own tickets, or visit this page for a full list of additional libraries featuring displays.
If you’re not able to make it to London by the end of February to check out the exhibit, don’t worry: Harry Potter: A History of Magic will move to the New-York Historical Society Museum & Library in October 2018, and will partner with Scholastic to add US-specific artifacts to the exhibit.