Located on the campus of Harvard University in Cambridge, the Harvard Museum of Natural History boasts a collection of specimens drawn from the university’s three natural history research museums. Connected to the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, admission to one museum grants admission to the other at no additional cost.
The History of the Harvard Museum of Natural History
The Harvard Museum of Natural History was created in 1998 with the intent of serving as the “public face” to the research museums of Harvard University Herbaria, Museum of Comparative Zoology and Harvard Mineralogical Museum. As such, the museum contains specimens that come from each of these collections. Meanwhile, the research faculty provides its expertise to the museum while programs for members and the general public help to provide an exchange of ideas and information. 14 years after the museum of created, the museum became one of four public museums to be part of the Harvard Museum of Science & Culture consortium.
Galleries and Exhibits
The Harvard Museum of Natural History contains several permanent galleries where visitors can explore the diversity of life on earth. Among these are dinosaur exhibits as well as those that focus on invertebrates, reptiles, birds, fish and large mammals. The museum is also the only one to feature a mounted Kronosaurus.
In addition to its galleries and exhibits on life forms, the museum also features a mineralogical gallery displaying meteorites, gemstones and minerals. The Glass Flowers exhibit, which houses the historic Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants, can also be found at the museum. A relatively new gallery, the Sea Creatures in Glass gallery, also displays a collection of Blaschka models of marine invertebrates.
For those who can’t make it to the museum, it also boasts two online exhibits. The first, entitled What’s in a Name, works along with four interactive kiosks embedded in existing exhibits. With this exhibit, you can learn more about how different organisms are named while also downloading a free e-book. The other Islands: Evolving in Isolation, explore the evolution by highlighting the latest research and discoveries made by Harvard scientists.
Programs and Education
The Harvard Museum of Natural History offers an extensive range of educational programs, lectures and classes for adults and children to enjoy. Through a successful partnership with Cambridge public schools, the museum has been able to develop a hands-on, observation-based approach to science education. As such, the museum welcomes a growing number of school children and their families to its programs every year. Kids classes and family programs are offered virtually every weekend as well as throughout the summer. Additional classes and programs can also be enjoyed on many weekdays.
The museum also regularly hosts public lectures, including many free presentations made by Harvard faculty members and researchers. Some upcoming lectures include:
- Viruses: The Good the Bad and the Ugly (March 28 at 6:00 pm)
- Living with Sharks (April 2 at 6:00 pm)
- Self-Domestication in Bonobos and Other Wild Animals (April 9 at 6:00 pm)
- Chasing Ants (and Their Microbes) in the Rainforest (April 10 at 6:00 pm)
- Meet a Scientist at the Harvard Museum of Natural History (April 18 from 10:00 until noon)
The museum even sponsors a travel program that allows small groups to visit destinations along with Harvard science faculty to learn more about the natural world.