Fun in Cambridge MA: Glass Flowers at Harvard Museum of Natural History

by Gina Martin on March 22, 2012

in Arts and Culture, Travel Ideas

On a recent visit to Massachusetts for my teenage son’s day at MIT’s Spark program, my elementary-aged daughter and I were looking for fun things to do in the Boston area while he was in class, so we went for a visit to the Harvard Museum of Natural History – HMNH in Cambridge. Among the usual natural history museum collections of minerals and taxidermied animals, HMNH has a stunning collection of handmade glass flowers that have to be seen to be believed.

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The flowers were commissioned by Professor George Lincoln Goodale for botany classes to study plant structures without being constrained by seasons and access to original plants. The glass flowers and plants were created from 1887 through 1936, and replaced inferior and crude papier mache and wax versions. Glass artisans Leopold Blaschka and his son Rudolph made models of 847 species of flower, each a marvel of accuracy and lifelike detail.

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The specimens on display really do look as though they’ve been just pulled from the ground, and the detailed views of stamens, root systems, and other parts give a clear picture of how each plant works. The fineness of the glasswork is stunning, it’s hard to believe they are not actual plants, and are formed by hand from glass using tools like the ones on the bench shown above.

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The whole museum is worth checking out, we found it was a really fun thing to do with kids in Cambridge MA. It is just a short trip from Boston via the T to Harvard Square, and is a nice change of pace from other family tourism spots in Boston.

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| lives in Coxsackie NY with her husband, their two children, and an assortment of Rottweilers and cats. Gina has been a homeschooling parent since 2003, and is also proud parent of a Tech Valley High School student. Gina is the creator of ModSchooler, her blog about 21st -century learning and fun, and is a contributor to From Scratch Club writing on food and food policy. As lifelong learners, Gina and her tween and teen kids like to go off the beaten path to explore quirky travel destinations, unusual cuisine, and all things geeky. Email:, twitter: @GinaMartinBlogs

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