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What To Expect at the Harvard Museum of Natural History

March 17, 2023 By CityPASS

Boston is home to some of America's richest history, from the historical architecture along Harvard Square to the Boston Common. The city's commitment to preserving American history can be observed in its many museums. From the Harvard Art Museums to the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, you can learn a lot about culture and the arts in Beantown.

The Harvard Museum of Natural History in Boston is perhaps one of the most impressive museums in the country, and no trip to Boston is complete without a stop at this cultural epicenter.

Continue reading this handy city guide to learn what exhibits and experiences you should prioritize when visiting the Harvard Museum of Natural History, the accompanying Peabody Museum, and more with Boston CityPASS® tickets.

Top Exhibits and Experiences at the Harvard Museum of Natural History

The Harvard Museum of Natural History is located on Oxford Street in Cambridge, just outside of Boston. Housed in an expansive brick building, the museum is devoted to education and the preservation of some of the country's most impressive natural specimens.

Extraordinary Glass Flower Collection

Although a collection of glass flowers may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a natural history museum, the collection of glass plants on display at the Harvard Museum is not only beautiful but also holds great historical significance.

Although commonly referred to as the "glass flowers," this exhibit is titled "The Blaschka Glass Model of Plants" after the Czech father and son duo who painstakingly made the collection of glass plants over the course of 50 years, starting in the late 19th century.

In total, the collection encompasses virtually exact artistic interpretations of more than 4,000 glass plants that model nearly 800 plant species. The glass plant models were made to address the issues that existed at the time of natural plant specimens degrading over time and other plant models (e.g., paper mache) failing to capture the plants' natural beauty.

No trip to Boston is complete without visiting this remarkable exhibition at the Harvard Museum of Natural History.

Extensive Mineral Specimens and Geology Exhibit

Another of the museum's renowned collections is the mineral and gem collection on display at the Earth and Planetary Sciences Gallery. This portion of the museum is devoted to educating visitors about the region's geological history, dating back millions of years.

This exhibit is rich in history and provides a framework for understanding the natural world in which we live. And it includes a staggering collection of gems and minerals for visitors to observe.

The collection currently on display includes roughly 100,00 minerals and gems, approximately 7,000 of which were collected from the New England region.

Even those who aren't typically interested in geology are sure to be wowed by this breathtaking exhibition, which consists of minerals and gems in various colors, types, and displays.

Vast Display of New England Marine Life

The Harvard Museum of Natural History has an incredible marine life-focused multidisciplinary experience that visitors will enjoy. In addition to numerous rotating exhibits, the Marine Life exhibit explores underwater life in New England.

In addition, the museum has display specimens, a replica of what the coastal New England waters look like from below that spans to the ceiling, and glowing model sea creatures.

If you are intrigued by the Blaschka glass flowers, you'll be pleased to know that the talented family expanded beyond plant life. In addition to the 4,000 species of plants on display, the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology also showcases more than 400 glass models of invertebrates made by the Blaschkas.

This multi-media exhibition is one of the museum's most impressive and includes some of its most lifelike exhibits.

Incredible Paleontology Gallery

Also in Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology is the amazing paleontology gallery. Whether you consider yourself to be a dinosaur enthusiast or not, you won't want to miss this breathtaking exhibit.

A true historical monument, the Vertebrate Paleontology Collection is home to roughly 90,000 fossil specimens. The species on display include:

  • Mammals
  • Fish
  • Birds
  • Amphibians
  • Reptiles

And if you live in Boston or are traveling with children, you can ignite their passion for learning about dinosaurs by enrolling them in a one-hour class where they can learn what it's like to dig for fossils.

Vivid Earth & Planetary Displays

Finally, no trip to the Harvard Museum of Natural History is complete without a visit to the Earth & Planetary Sciences display. This section of the museum is devoted to our solar system at large and how our planet fits within it.

Here, you can view and interact with some of the oldest materials on the planet and deepen your understanding of how Earth was formed and has continued to evolve since then.

In addition to the impressive collection of minerals exhibited here, visitors to the planetary exhibit can also view an actual piece of the moon, as a lunar rock sample is now on display.

Visit Harvard University's Most Popular Museum on Your Trip to Boston

Inside the Harvard Museum of Natural History's walls are an enormous display of incredible specimens and exhibits. In addition to learning a lot from a trip to the museum, you can also broaden your horizons by wandering around the Harvard University campus, strolling through Harvard Yard, and visiting more of the university's museums.

When you bundle with CityPASS® tickets, you can save nearly on some of Boston's top attractions, including:

Boston Lodging

To get the most out of your stay in Boston, we recommend finding lodging near Boston's top attractions. Use this map to find the right lodging for you:

Header Image ©President & Fellows Harvard College

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