NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

NLM Celebrates 20th Anniversary of Harry Potter Series

Illustration of man wearing knickers tending a fire in a barrel
Illustration of an alchemy workshop in Johann Mylius’s "Opus Medico-Chymicum," 1618

Photo:  National Library of Medicine

On June 26, 1997, British author J.K. Rowling published Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the first book in the Harry Potter series and the beginning of a global, pop cultural phenomenon. 

To celebrate Harry Potter’s 20th anniversary and the world-renowned historical collections of the National Library of Medicine, the library will offer a series of special events, including a week-long display featuring rare books and incunables (books printed before 1501) that influenced the Harry Potter series, and the popular NLM traveling exhibition “Harry Potter’s World: Renaissance Science, Magic, and Medicine,” lectures and more. Events will be held June 26-30 at NLM.

The library will display 15th, 16th and 17th-century collection items, which represent the history that informed some of the characters and settings of the Harry Potter series and formed the foundation of the traveling exhibition. 

The special display and traveling exhibition explore the magic of Harry Potter and its roots in Renaissance traditions that played an important role in the development of Western science. 

The display and exhibition highlight the important ethical topics Rowling’s stories examine. Visitors can navigate the display using a “Marauder’s Map” and take home coloring pages fashioned from the books and incunables on display.

Harry Potter’s World and the Renaissance books and incunables will appear in the History of Medicine Division reading room at NLM’s Bldg. 38A during the week of June 26. The event is open to the public, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. each day. Reservations are encouraged as only a limited number of people can be accommodated in the reading room. Guided tours are available on request by email at or by phone at (301) 594-1947.

NLM will also offer two special lectures as part of the week-long appreciation. On Tuesday, June 27 at 2 p.m., exhibit curator Elizabeth Bland presents “A Look into the Pensieve: Reflections on Harry Potter at Twenty Years.” 

Then, on Thursday, June 29 at 2 p.m., Dr. Stephen Greenberg, head of rare books & early manuscripts at NLM, gives a talk titled “Monsters in the Stacks: How Harry Potter Came to NLM.” Both talks take place in Lister Hill Auditorium, Bldg. 38A.   

To benefit audiences around the world, and especially those who are joining in the celebration of the Harry Potter 20th anniversary, NLM will launch an online curated collection of the 15th, 16th and 17th-century books that will appear in the week-long display, as well as related works. 

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