So, recently I took a week off work to go to Seattle for fun with my sis and her friend, and also to Chicago for a family reunion. While on these trips, I got the chance to thoroughly indulge my nerdy side. Not only was there a Pirate's Plunder shop in Seattle, but the first location of the world-wide Harry Potter Exhibition is in Chicago at the Science and Industry Museum. Also in Chicago, the Field Museum's special exhibit is Real Pirates. It was like travel paradise for me.
First up, my review of the Harry Potter Expo:
Apparently, they've had a quarter of a million people go through since it's been open in April. That's crazy, and also easy to imagine since they're pushing around 40 people through every 8 minutes. There was an optional "audio" tour, but I thought "Um, why would someone like me need that?" Before our group was sent in, the leader did some trivia. The first question I heard was "When is Fred and George Weasley's birthday?" I, of course, in true Hermione fashion, shot my hand up as fast as a I could, and proudly answered "April 1st". Of course, after that, I let the little kids have all the glory. I have some dignity left, you know.
Once inside the exhibit, a few people got to be "sorted". One of the chicks said her favorite house is Slytherin, because "Draco is pretty". The guide was glad it wasn't because of any moral reasons. Seriously, I couldn't make this up. After that we got to watch a video montage that almost brought tears to my eyes, because I am that pathetic of a nerd. We then entered through the Fat Lady portrait of the Gryffindor common room and continued on from there.
I loved the Gilderoy Lockhart set up- it was perfect to see all the costumes and the props you barely get to see in the movies. I also got to pull up my own mandrake (or, mandragora) roots, which made a large shrieking sound. I also got to practice with a quaffle and sit in Hagrid's chair. Awesome, right? Overall, I think it was worth it to a dedicated fan like me just for all the props you remember from the books that were only backgrounds in the movies. The actual costumes were also fascinating as well.
Next up: Real Pirates
Now, this exhibit wasn't quite what I was expecting, but it was extremely interesting. They chose to showcase the journey of one ship- the Whydaa (Ok I'm spelling that wrong). It actually started off as a slave ship, but was taken over by Sam Bellamy and became part of his pirate fleet. The exhibit aimed to quench a few common pirate rumors, and try as best as possible to capture what true pirate life was like in the Golden Age. It was fascinating to see that about half of the average pirate crew was of African or part-African descent. Consider this- piracy was illegal, and you faced hagning and public torture if you were caught. However, the honest sailor barely made any money, if at all, with all proceeds of merchant vessels going to the captain. And for escaped slaves, or Africans trying to evade slavery altogether, a society that allowed them an equal vote and equal share of wealth with all other men was highly appealing, and the only alternative to a life of suffering.
This particular fleet was hit by a hurricane, and the ship went down. The few survivors were all tried and hanged for piracy (except for the Carpenter, who claimed he had been forced into service), and the loot the ship was carrying at the time wasn't recovered. People at the time tried to find the wreck, but were unable to access it. In 1984, someone managed to piece it all together through some extraordinary research and use of technology, recover the treasure, and all sorts of artifacts from the pirate ship itself. The whole exhibit was fun and educational at the same time, and I loved it.