In 1998, Harvard combined the Museum of Comparative Zoology, the Harvard University Herbaria and the Mineralogical & Geological Museum to form the Harvard Museum of Natural History. Within the brick walls of the remarkable building you’ll find a range of bones, fossils, taxidermy animals, minerals and precious gems, and examples of some of the most impressive plants and flowers found in the natural world.
Why You’ll Love the Harvard Museum of Natural History
The Harvard Museum of Natural History’s extensive collection is displayed through multiple permanent exhibits. The museum also hosts temporary exhibits that add to the ambiance of the great halls.
In the Africa Gallery you can get up close and personal with mounted animals you would never want to come face-to-face with in real life. Check out the fangs of the lioness, see what a zebra looks like, and laugh alongside a hyena.
While many of us run from a tiny spider in our homes, the Arthropods: Creatures that Rule exhibit will immerse you in the beauty of insect culture. Here, you can view thousands of examples of everything from cockroaches to butterflies.
Bird watchers will delight in the Birds of the World Gallery. View over 10,000 species, most of which can’t be found with binoculars in your backyard. You’ll learn all about how these miraculous creatures evolved from dinosaurs.
The Cenozoic Mammals exhibit features the bones of the earliest mammals of the Cenozoic Era. While you may not recognize the names of these creatures, you’ll certainly see the resemblance to many of the animals that still walk the earth today.
If you’re concerned about conservation you’ll love the Climate Change: Our Global Experiment exhibit. This hands on gallery will help you form your own opinion on the polarizing subject. Then, use everything you learn to map out your call of action on the museum’s computer simulation program to see how you could save the planet.
What is earth made of? You can find out in the Earth & Planetary Sciences Gallery, which hosts thousands of examples of minerals and gemstones that date back to the origin of the planet.
Step way back in time to find out where you came from in the Evolution exhibit, where you’ll find evidence of the theory of evolution by perusing the fossils, bones and models of various related species throughout history.
In the late 19th century, a Harvard botanist was fed up with the unrealistic examples he had to share with students. This led to the commission of the Glass Flowers. At the museum, you can find 3,000 of these lifelike plants displayed in The Glass Flowers gallery. It is one of the main attractions within the Harvard Museum of Natural History. In similar fashion, the Sea Creatures in Glass gallery lets you get a realistic view of some of the most beautiful, delicate creatures of the sea.
Inside the Great Mammal Hall you can view examples and learn about many current species that roam the land (and sea) today. One of the biggest draws for the hall is their giant display of whale skeletons, which make even the tallest humans look like ants.
The Islands: Evolving in Isolation exhibit provides an interesting look into what happens when a species is allowed to prosper in segregation. You’ll view a menagerie of interesting animals, each with their own story to tell.
The Mollusks: Shelled Masters of the Marine Realm is a hands on exhibit that allows you to touch some of the largest shells you will ever come across, all the while learning about various species found on the ocean floor.
Get to know the local wildlife in the New England Forests exhibit. You may run if you saw some of these animals in the wild, but you can safely observe mounted moose, coyotes and bears in a setting that displays their true habitat.
Don’t skip the Romer Hall of Vertabrate Paleontology, where you’ll find fossilized fish, dinosaurs and early mammals that have been extinct for centuries.
What Makes the Harvard Museum of Natural History Special?
In 2004, Canadian scientists discovered the fossilized remains of a 375-million-year-old fish which provided many answers to the theory of evolution. You can view a model of the fish in the Evolution exhibit.
What Else Is in the Neighborhood?
Scoot next door to the Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology. Admission is included in the price of your ticket to the Natural History Museum. Then, stroll through the Harvard campus to Harvard Square. If you’re there while school is in, you can grab a bite to eat at the Greenhouse Café before chowing down on two scoops from Churn Ice Cream.
Who’ll Have the Most Fun at the Harvard Museum of Natural History?
Everybody will have a blast at the Harvard Museum of Natural History. Most kids will marvel at the abundance of animal species that surround them. That being said, you should prepare them in advance. These creatures are not alive, and that could set off some sensitive tears from young animal lovers.