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His Dark Materials exhibition in Oxford museums brings Lyra’s world to life

Props from the BBC’s adaptation of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy have gone on display this week in Oxford museums. 

Together, exhibits at Pitt Rivers Museum, the History of Science Museum, and The Story Museum create a fan’s paradise, with props from the show including the alethiometer, Lyra’s scuffed-on-an-Oxford-rooftop pinafore and the ethereal subtle knife. Free entry to the Pitt Rivers Museum and History of Science Museum encourages fans to immerse themselves into “Lyra’s World”, the title of the display. 

The exhibition opens as the BBC’s third series comes to viewers’ screens. For fans, there seems no better way to celebrate than to see the amber spyglass, seed pods from the Mulefa World, and Mary Malone’s Ching Sticks at the Pitt Rivers. Indeed, the museum itself appears in The Subtle Knife and was used as a filming location in the programme. 

Props shown at The Story Museum include the subtle knife, the dress worn by the witch Serafina Pekkala, and airmail letters written by John Parry to his wife, which are displayed beside Pullman’s specially commissioned and permanently exhibited alethiometer. 

Meanwhile, The History of Science Museum offers a “What’s your dæmon?” experience to bring the much-loved stories alive. The experience ends by matching your given dæmon to particular “Women in Science”. Dr Silke Ackermann, director of the History of Science Museum has said how much of a delight it has been to finally celebrate the stories alongside “the stunning instruments in our collection that inspired Philip Pullman for many years”. Iconic costumes and Lyra’s alethiometer stand in line with astrolabes, astronomical compendia, and sundials. 

As well as the exhibition, the Oxford Botanic Garden marks the tree of Lyra’s and Will’s midday rendezvous with a sculpture. His Dark Materials naturally encourages tourism for a global fanbase, through these collaborative displays across Oxford. 

The displays will run until April 2023. 

Image Credit: Ian Wallman

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