Report: Narnia Exhibition in Philadelphia

Shannon wrote in to tell us she attended “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Exhibition” in Philadelphia yesterday. You can read the original story on the Exhibition here.

Shannon writes:

When I heard that I had to go to Philadelphia for my sister’s Irish step dancing competition the day after Thanksgiving, needless to say I was quite upset. What was I going to do there? By chance (or some divine act of mercy) I read about the Narnia exhibit on this website, and it happened to be opening the SAME DAY that my sister was dancing.

I went today at 4:30, and I kid you not when I say it was one of the most magical experiences ever. I’ll write down the things I remember. (I usually a grammar freak but am quite tired from travel so please excuse any silly grammatical/punctuation/spelling errors!)

I began by walking into an area that was called C. S. Lewis’s study. They had a variety of plaques telling stories about a young Lewis and his early fascination with fantasy, and how Narnia got its roots in the stories he and his brother used to tell to one another sitting in a wardrobe. Notable items in here were a mug that C. S. Lewis used, an original letter he had written to a friend, one of his pipes, and, of particular interest to me, several of what I believe to have been first editions of The Lord of the Rings as Tolkien was a dear friend of Lewis’s.

Next, you enter “The Attic.” When the doors open it reveals doors decorated to look like the wardrobe, and the room looks unnervingly like the attic from the film. To the left they even have two windows that have the silhouettes of trees dancing behind the rain sliding down the window panes. After a brief introduction, the doors open to reveal a closet full of fur coats and gently falling snow beyond. Being a big fan of Lucy, I found it really remarkable to get to be the first one of the small group that entered to walk through. To the left were the outfits that Lucy, Peter, and Susan wear on their first journey together through the wardrobe. There were also replicas of Mr. and Mrs. Beaver with a collection of their belongings. Further on to the right was Mr. Tumnus’s house with the door and window from the film as well as the proclamation of his arrest that the Pevensies find. After that there is a brief bit on snow, which I’m sure was there to amuse those (such as my father) who don’t know much about Narnia. Beyond that were several statues from the White Witch’s castle, including various small creatures, what I believe was an otter, a bear, and a dwarf. Across from that is a replica of Jadis’ throne that you can sit in.

Across from that on the right is a map of Narnia, with buttons to press that light up various landmarks from the stories. Next to the statues is a case containing Jadis’ dress, her crown (and three other versions as it slowly melts away), the case of Turkish delight, and the chalice used to serve Edmund.

To the right of that was an exhibit containing Edmund’s outfit when the Pevensies first enter Narnia and Ginarrbrik’s costume.

The whole area mentioned above is artfully decorated to resemble a Narnian winter. After the sleigh it begins to melt into spring. There was A LOT of stuff after this point, so excuse me if my memory is a bit hazy. Chances are I’ll remember the things that meant the most to me.

To the left were the Pevensies’ school outfits when they return to Narnia for the first time. (Let me take this chance to mention that throughout the exhibit there are movie clips playing displaying the moments when these things are seen in the films.) The mannequins (headless, not anything special) that were wearing the outfits were situated on a display that resembled sand with the beach and cave area in the background. The coats were even flung on the ground, the boys’ ties undone, and the girls’ sweaters wrapped around their waists. Beyond that were a wide array of pieces from the treasury at Cair Paravel, including Susan’s treasure chest (containing a few arrows and her quiver, among other things) the statue of Susan as an adult, an Aslan statue that belonged to Lucy, Edmund’s torch and Edmund’s chesspiece.

At this point the exhibit bends again and there is a section containing the belongings of the Telamarines. One case contained the outfit of Miraz and his infant son, and next to that was the dress worn by his wife. In the center of this area was a miniature of Miraz’s castle. Across from that and flanking the right side of the entrance to the next section was Caspian’s escape outfit with Susan’s horn, and to the left of that Cornelius’ outfit along with several scrolls of parchment and the book containing the stunning drawing of the Pevensies, full with one of Susan’s arrow stabbed in the page. Oh, also in this room was Miraz’s throne, a bit on catapults, and one of Miraz’s soldiers outfits may have been in here. You’ll come to notice that the Pevensies mean the most to me as it is their things that I’m remembering best, haha.

In the next section directly to the right is a case containing Trumpkin’s outfit and Nikabrik’s outfit. The room bends again and on the outer part is a tree hollow. When you go inside, you get to see a cutaway of Trumpkin’s room and props used in the movie. On the inner bend is a life-size (and daunting) minotaur. Even though he was a good guy (his name escapes me right now… it was the one that held the gate for Caspian and the Pevensies at Miraz’s castle) it was so lifelike that my skin crawled. There were several blocks that you spun across the way to make your own creature and a replica of Reepicheep. There was a bit on the physiology of animals (again, to amuse people like my dad, I am sure) and a little section on Glenstorm.

I think it was at this point that you enter a room containing Caspian’s battle outfit as well as the battle outfits of Miraz and Lord Sopespian. To the left is what excited me most, though. They had Lucy’s outfit from the battle, her healing vial, dagger and belt, Edmund’s battle outfit, Susan’s outfit from the raid and battle, and Peter’s battle outfit and sword. You would not BELIEVE the detail and care put into their creation. I just stood, most likely gawking, for a long time.

After that is a room with a large screen, showing all the trials the Pevensies went through,ending with an illustration of a ship on a stormy sea with a large sea serpent rising from the water. It then proclaims VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER. SUMMER 2010. After that is my other favorite part. You walk through to the throne room, where you walk beneath four centaurs with raised swords much like the Pevensies did at their coronation. They have Susan’s throne on display. This room has as its crowning achievement (pun at first unintended, then intended): a case containing the crowns of the Pevensies, with Aslan’s proclamation to each of them. They were mindblowing! I leaned in to look closely and even then they were flawless.

After that is a nice little gift shop where I got a shirt from the exhibition and several postcards.

All in all, it’s a great event, and don’t be afraid to bring someone who isn’t a huge Narnia fan. There are plenty of interactive things to do such as feeling just how heavy swords and armor are, feeling an ice wall, and studying the way that an animal communicates and how its body works, to name a few.

Hope some people get a chance to share this experience!

Thanks Shannon for the report!