‘Fantastic Beasts: The Wonder of Nature’: cute and informative JK Rowling tie-in

Museums, Natural history
Fantastic Beasts, Natural History Museum, 2021
Photo by Lucie Goodayle Image Resources NHM London

Time Out says

The real creatures outshine the imaginary ones in this cute exhibit

In ordinary times a JK Rowling tie-in exhibition would be a virtual license to print money for the Natural History Museum. In actual fact, ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Wonder of Nature’ has had a rough old time of it thanks to London’s endless series of lockdowns: it was originally due to open in the autumn, got pushed back to December, and was forced to close after barely a week thanks to the joys of Tier 3. Hopefully it’ll finally get a decent run at it, because it is a lot of fun. 

The basic idea is that it mixes up exhibits on creatures from Rowling’s fantastical bestiary with real-life creatures that display similar characteristics. So, for instance, a bit on Rowling’s fictional treasure-loving niffler – here represented by CGI version that you can lob CGI gold to – is paired with bits about trinket-loving bowerbirds and magpies.

It’s not particularly important that you are familiar with ‘Fantastic Beasts’ as either film or book. You get the general idea that every fourth or so creature is made up, and they come with cute, imaginative displays. The limited ticketing to the exhibit makes it easier to sanitise, so many of the displays are interactive, unlike the NHM’s main areas where the interactive stuff is currently shut.

To be honest, they could clearly have carried the same basic idea off without any sort of tie-in: for me, the best bit was the first room, which focuses more on archetypal monsters than Rowling’s more whimsical creations – so mermaids, dragons, sea serpents and kraken, with displays on their various inspiration like manatees, dinosaurs, oarfish and giant squid. 

Still, the combination of medieval monstrosities and Rowling’s archer creations makes for a neat mix of child and adult-friendliness that’s been worth the (very long) wait.


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