Harvard Museum of Natural History
By Susan M. Keenan © 2007
The Harvard Museum of Natural History, a public museum, is a collection of three separate institutions including the Botanical Museum, the Museum of Comparative Zoology, and the Mineralogical and Geological Museum. It is located at 26 Oxford Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The Botanical Museum includes an extensive paleobotanical collection. The primary highlight, however, is the Glass Flowers Gallery. The Gallery showcases an imaginative collection of more than three thousand glass models crafted by the father and son team of Leopold Blaschka and Rudolph Blaschka. It represents over 800 species of plants. A number of glass bugs are also featured in this collection.
The Museum of Comparative Zoology features a diverse array of exhibits that range from fossils to modern animals and includes twelve separate departments. The department categories include: Biological Oceanography, Marine Biology, Entomology, Ichthyology, Population Genetics, Mammalogy, Herpetology, Invertebrate Paleontology, Vertebrate Paleontology, Ornithology, Invertebrate Zoology, and Mollusks.
Exhibits include permanent and temporary displays. One of the newest temporary exhibits, Nests and Eggs, is a multimedia exhibit that allows visitors to get up close and personal. Arthropods, a permanent exhibit, showcases specimens, videos, hands-on activities, and live animals.
The Mineralogical and Geological Museum, dating back to 1891, includes an eclectic array of minerals, rocks, meteorites, and rough and cut gemstones. The mineral collection is the largest of the collections housed in the museum, reaching more than 50,000 specimens. The minerals are categorized according to chemical composition. Some of the most interesting minerals on display here include minerals from the Tsumeb mine in Namibia, zinc from the Franklin mines in New Jersey, and specimens from the New England area.
Obtained in 1883, the Smith meteorite collection has given the museum an international status. Additionally, the micromount collection, donated by A. F. Holden, is impressive in size. It includes the tiniest of samples prepared for microscopic viewing.
Admission prices vary with varying prices offered for children, college students, adults, and senior citizens. Students from Harvard University can gain free admission with a student ID. Additionally, the Harvard Museum of Natural History participates in the City Pass Program.
On Wednesdays, special hours for free admission for Massachusetts’s residents extend from September through May from 3:00 pm until 5:00 pm. On Sundays, special hours for free admission for Massachusetts’s residents extend year-round from 9:00 am until noon.
Although Harvard Museum of Natural History is closed on New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day, it is open daily seven days a week from 9:00 am until 5:00 pm.
A series of educational programs take place throughout the year including Saturday Scholars, Kids Clubs, and adult classes. Occasional evening events are planned throughout the year. An onsite gift shop is open daily and offers a wide variety of items including books, minerals, toys, models, games, and gifts.
Parking is limited and taking public transportation is advisable. A limited number of metered parking spaces are available, but these have two-hour limits. Parking garages operated by Harvard University offer limited parking through day permits, accessible online or in person.