From now through December, students don’t need Dumbledore’s pensieve to see the Department of Magical Law Enforcement in action.
Reference librarians Karen Wahl and Mary Kate Hunter launched an exhibit in the Jacob Burns Law Library that uses J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series to teach about civil suit issues and copyright law in a way that students can learn in a more entertaining and accessible way.
“Some of the things we discovered while searching for this were that the Harry Potter world has been sort of used as a jumping-off point for different evaluations of the law,” Wahl said.
The exhibit centers around the book “The Law and Harry Potter,” a collection of essays by Jeffrey Thomas and Franklin Snyder that explores how legal institutions are depicted in Rowling’s novels.
It also features an essay that discusses the implications of copyright law as applied to fan fiction and the fair-use doctrine. The best-selling franchise inspired an abundance of spinoffs and fan fiction, like “James Potter and the Hall of Elders’ Crossing.”
“I think those authors were also sort of grabbing onto the fact that Harry Potter is so accessible, that you can use that in so many different ways to bring interest to the areas that are sometimes a little dryer,” Wahl said.
Students have been interested in the exhibit, which Wall said hoped would draw in attention because of the series’ popularity.
“The students at GW now are, for the most part, those who grew up with Harry Potter as he grew up in the books,” Wahl said. “I think people have enjoyed seeing a display to this old, albeit fictional, friend.”