Harry Potter-themed Lego sets are among the temporary exhibit on display at Mexico City’s Museo del Juguete Antiguo. // © 2015 Museo del Juguete Antiguo
Feature image (above): The creative team at the museum purchased 1940’s pharmacy furniture to create this “toy habitat.” // © 2015 Museo del Juguete Antiguo
If you’re a Harry Potter fan, chances are you have spent a Halloween dressed in a black robe and striped scarf, wand in hand. It's also likely that you've torn through J.K. Rowling’s books multiple times and without shame; become slightly obsessed with owls; and maybe even visited London, where Potter followers can pretend to cross onto Platform Nine and Three-Quarters at King’s Cross Station and look for a broomstick at Leadenhall Market, the real-life Diagon Alley.
Mexico City should sit squarely on any Potter fans’ must-see list as well, at least through June 30. Until that date, the capital city’s Museo del Juguete Antiguo (Antique Toy Museum) is home to the world’s largest Harry Potter-memorabilia collection, certified by Guinness World Records. With themed Lego sets, board games, international magazine covers splashed with Daniel Radcliffe’s face and more, the collection is as serious as a game of Quidditch.
According to Roberto Yuichi Shimizu Kinoshita, the museum’s creative director, the exhibition has drawn thousands of fans to the museum, beginning with the exhibit’s opening-day celebration on Feb. 28. Magicians of all ages performed throughout the four-floor museum that day, and costumed kids pretended to send messages to Hogwarts — there were even rescue owls, trained to carry notes, to mark the occasion.
“What was amazing and what surprised us most that day was the number of people who arrived dressed as Harry Potter,” Kinoshita said. “We had activities for nearly 3,000 people. It was a magical day, and guests of all ages were really into it.”
For Kinoshita, hosting the exhibit is one part of a larger, personal story. Asher Vargas, the man behind the Harry Potter display, was partially inspired to start his collection when he met Kinoshita’s father, also named Roberto Kinoshita. The eldest Kinoshita, who has been keeping toys since he was 10 years old, has known Vargas’ mother for years. It is his vast number of toys that are on display year-round at the museum. There are more than 55,000 antique toys exhibited on any given day, and even more that remain in storage.
“Vargas started his collection when the Harry Potter saga first began,” Kinoshita said. “He started with the first books, and then his fascination grew. He collected everything he could find, from candies to Legos to magazines. Over time, it was all in a warehouse in boxes. That’s when he came to my father to ask for an opportunity to exhibit his work at the museum. Just like some other temporary exhibits we have done — Barbie, G.I. Joe and others — it’s been very popular. At certain points, we’ve closed the ticket counter due to the number of people.”
As is the case with every collection in Museo del Juguete Antiguo, the Harry Potter exhibit is showcased in its own unique way. Kinoshita and his team acquired old furniture from a 1940s drug store and vintage chemical bottles to help create a distinct environment for the toys — it looks more like a packed apothecary shop than a traditional curatorial space.
“Our museum is very peculiar,” Kinoshita said. “We call our exhibits ‘toy habitats.’ They are art installations made with toys. That’s why a lot of artists come here — Jack White, Guns N’ Roses, Nine Inch Nails, to name a few — and why we have been featured in The New York Times, Fodor’s and more as one of the best-kept secrets in Mexico City.”