Harvard Museum of Natural History

Harvard Museum of Natural History butterfly

Photo courtesy of the Harvard Museum of Natural History

The Harvard Museum of Natural History is a kid-friendly, interesting and diverse museum with exhibits ranging from glasswork to extinct animal skeletons to minerals and rocks and much more. Read on for more information about the various exhibits…

Glass Flowers at the Harvard Museum of Natural History

Harvard Museum of Natural History

Photo courtesy of the Harvard Museum of Natural History

I was most excited to see this exhibit. I had many ideas of what the flowers might look like, but my imagination was nothing compared to the actual glasswork.

The glass plants were originally made for the purpose of teaching botany. This was a time before color photography (hard to imagine, right?)

The plants were all designed from sketches or the actual plants. The glass plants were made from a technique called flameworking or lampworking.

Harvard Museum of Natural History

The plants were made by Leopold and Rudolph Blaschka, a German father and son duo.  The flowers were made between 1886 and 1936. (Rudolph continued working after his father’s death in 1895)

The models range from plants to roots to specific flower parts to full flowers and everything in-between. There are also models demonstrating diseased plants.

They were created for educational purposes, and the detail is extremely profound. The exhibit features over 857 different plants with 3,200 different models. Visit the exhibit to see the vibrant and life-like flowers, and the actual bench where these creations were made.

Glass Sea Creatures Exhibit

Harvard Museum of Natural History

Photo courtesy of the Harvard Museum of Natural History

Before the Blaschka’s created the Glass Flowers, they worked on models of Sea Creatures. The Harvard Museum of Natural History opened this exhibit in May 2014.

With over 60 detailed models, this exhibit is not to be missed. Ranging from jellyfish, corals, sea anemones, octopuses, squids, and more, the exhibit highlights the structure and intricate detail of sea creature that can be lost in preserving them.

For example, this octopus is vibrant and life-like in shape, while a preserved octopus would not be as visually pleasing.

These are only two of the main exhibits.  Click Here for more information about the Harvard Museum of Natural History.

Earth and Planetary Science Gallery


Photo courtesy of the Harvard Museum of Natural History

I personally am not knowledgeable or particularly interested in Earth and Planetary Science, but I thoroughly enjoyed this exhibit. There are over 4,400 rocks of many colors, shapes and sizes, from around the world. They include but are not limited to pure metals, oxides, and minerals, both cut and uncut.

A highlight of this exhibit includes a vibrant 1,6000 pound amethyst geode from Brazil. For science and history lovers, learn about plate tectonics with a visual display of how the plates changed starting from over 4,000 years ago. rock1

I chatted with a volunteer in this gallery. To interest the children, the volunteer had samples of every month’s birthstone on display. I got to touch my October Opal and it was very engaging, even for a 21-year-old!

The volunteer also mentioned that many children ask to see Kryptonite, which unfortunately is not on display. However, there is an emerald chunk of Beryl that could definitely pass!

New England Forest Exhibit


Photo courtesy of the Harvard Museum of Natural History

Think you are an expert on your own back yard?  Think again…

This exhibit features visuals as well as audio to make an immersive, educational experience. Children (and all visitors) can feel the barks of trees, the stone wall, and more. They can examine fur and features on various animals, both big and small.

Visitors can view a huge moose, a stoic wolf, and tiny squirrels, just to name a few furry friends on display.

As you walk around the exhibit, make sure to keep your ears alert. Motion detector sound systems optimize visitor experience. There are also touch computer screens that let museum visitors learn what they choose.

Arthropods: Creatures that Rule Exhibit

Did you know that 80 percent of Earth’s creatures are arthropods? Neither did I, until I visited this creepy-crawly exhibit. According to Professor Edward Wilson, one of the many guest lecturers at the museum, ants make up an equal weight to humans.

If you choose, visit the cockroach section, featuring lots of information about these arthropods, including a few live cockroaches.


According to the Harvard Museum of Natural History, “EVOLUTION offers a behind-the-scenes look at ongoing evolution research at Harvard, from exciting new discoveries about human origins, to surprising insights from new genetic and developmental studies on Darwin’s finches.”

Tree of Life

Commissioned by the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Science, the Tree of Life is an interactive screen that lets visitors see how everything is related.  Take two animals, two plants, one animal and one plant…you will be amazed at how everything is connected. Other permanent galleries include the Great Mammal Hall Exhibit, Africa Gallery Exhibit, Fishes Gallery Exhibit and Zoological Gallery Exhibit

Watch the video below for a virtual tour of the Harvard Museum of Natural History

Special Exhibits

FINAL FLIGHT: The Extinction of the Carrier Pigeon

This brief but informational exhibit marks the 100th anniversary of the extinction of the carrier pigeon.

Thoreau’s Maine Woods: A journey in Photographs with Scot Miller

Photographer Scot Miller has retraced Henry David Thoreau’s footsteps throughout Maine. This exhibit features beautiful photographs of nature that Thoreau explored.

Also on special exhibits are Mollusks and Climate Change

Click Here for more Cambridge museums.

 -Alison Perkus, Alison Says