Wizards, witches, and mystical beings alike, lined up along the quiet streets of Capreol Saturday, to experience the museum magic of the Northern Ontario Railroad Museum and Heritage Centre’s (NORMHC) first Harry Potter Day.
This family-friendly event, inspired by the J.K. Rowling Harry Potter book series, was hosted as a form of value-added programming to support the museum’s continued operation and ongoing projects. The afternoon included a pop-up wand shop, sorting hat, quidditch, Dobby sock-toss, potions class, as well as home-brewed butterbeer.
A long-time fan of the book series and keeper of the butterbeer recipe it inspired, Tara Ward proposed the event earlier this year to capitalize on the release of the Harry Potter Wizards Unite app, which she expects to have the same following as Pokemon Go.
Stu Thomas, president of the NORMHC board of directors, admitted he was not sure what the response would be from the community, but was more than happy to give Ward and her fellow summer students “full-range” to explore the concept. Seeing the turnout it ultimately achieved, Thomas said is a good indicator of the success they can expect from future programming.
Harry Potter Day is part of a long-term goal to encourage tourism and improve the museum experience, said Thomas, which in recent years has included a variety of model car shows and the annual Scare Fare. Looking to the future, Thomas said events such as this weekend’s, hosting high tea, or offering their neighbouring Heritage Centre for small gatherings, will hopefully allow NORMHC to offer programming year-round.
“We can’t just be a staid old museum, we have to be interactive, we have to generate ideas - and we have some great idea generators,” said Thomas.
One of the upgrades Thomas said he is most excited for is the possibility of introducing a digital, interactive aspect to a museum tour. Thomas said this would use the technology of an individuals cell phone to project stories and sounds according to key locations on the museum property.
“We got some great ideas, we just need people and money to pull it off,” said Thomas. These ideas he said, extend far beyond the boundaries of the museum and heritage centre.
“Without a council and a mayor (specifically) for Capreol, somebody has to generate things for the community, and we seem to be leaders who are helping to generate ideas and more visits to Capreol,” he said.
“My biggest hope is that we would make Capreol a tourist railroad town.” This he said, could mean shop owners wearing similar railroad inspired uniforms, having stylized equipment around town for tourists to interact with, or replacing reindeer with trains as a form of Christmas lawn decoration.
NORMHC has closed for the season but will re-open the weekend of Sept. 28 for the annual Scare Fair and Terror Train 6077. Find more information on the museum and its upcoming events here.