Gems & Glass Flowers

Last weekend it almost felt like a real spring day — so camera in hand I walked over to Harvard Square to see the Natural History Museum.

I've been once before, and was pretty impressed with the depth of their collection.

When I heard they had a special exhibit on glass flowers — I had no clue what that meant — but I knew I had to get over there.

harvard natural history museum

MA state residents can luck out with free days (check the website), and I was thrilled to see so many children and families enjoying the sights.

The Museum is a manageable size, and I started in the gems and minerals room, as you might expect!

harvard natural history museum

Do you also forget that gems are mined from deep within the earth and aren't always the perfect jewels we see?

I think it's great how they display these minerals in sizes that you can see and also that lend some context, rather than a tiny, cut processed version.

(A great reminder that these are truly precious materials)

harvard natural history museum

harvard natural history museum

I was mostly blown away by how different the same types of minerals are based on where they're from — just as different as we are from someone who grew up in another place.

But, the main event were the flowers — as always!

And what a beautiful display it is.

The flowers were completed by the Blaschka father and son duo in the late 19th and early 20th century and are unique to Harvard.

You may have seen their glass sea creatures at other institutions, but only Harvard has the flowers.

As far as anyone knows, they are perfect botanical specimens and are used as such by students.

The collection includes fully 'flowered' species like apples, and some even show rotting varietals so you see all stages of life.

I was lucky enough to walk into the space moments before a curator began a brief highlight of the collection.

Blaschka workbench

I really liked the fast-paced, less than five minutes, and interesting style of his mini-tour!

He also shared that the wall paper was taken from drawings in the son's sketchbook, something I wouldn't have otherwise known.

And for all the staring I did, I could never tell that these were made out of glass.

2 thoughts on “Gems & Glass Flowers”

  1. Amazing to think that such work has been done. Would love to see it someday. Thanks for making us aware of all these unusual creations

    1. They are really interesting, and certainly unusual. To me, the need for the Blaschka glass animals are more understandable – as ways to study species across the world – but I suppose glass flowers were just as useful to researchers before airplane travel was common!

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