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Harvard Museum of Natural History
Harvard Museum of Natural History
Harvard Museum of Natural History
Harvard Museum of Natural History

5 Reasons You Need to Visit The Reopening of The Glass Flowers

The Harvard Museum of Natural History announced their reopening of the Glass Flowers exhibit in Cambridge, MA on Saturday, May 21st.  As an internationally admired exhibition, this is truly a can’t-miss opportunity.

Before you head over to the exhibit, here’s a couple things you should know about the Glass Flowers:

1.  The Flowers are Made by Hand

This captivating and mesmeric gallery first opened its doors to the public on April 17, 1893 and has been closed since November 2015. Fortunately, the doors will be opening back up and visitors can observe a wide-range of glass displays.

The Harvard Museum of Natural History’s collection showcases the designs and creation of intricate glass-blown flowers by Germany-based glass blower Rudolf Blaschka and his father, Leopold Blaschka. These German gentlemen came from a family of jewelers and glassmakers dating back to 15th century Venice. The revolutionary duo has mastered the art of glassblowing, creating and selling thousands of sophisticated pieces to universities and museums across the globe.

2.  They’re Really Made of Glass

Over the course of five decades, the father-son team generated over 4,200 uniquely beautiful creations, representing more than 800 plant species all made entirely out of glass.

The 19th century introduced an explosion of interest in both science and education, leading to the construction of museums in Europe and America; these museums featured collections that portrayed science and natural history. During this time, Leopold Blaschka discovered a new method to perfect the mind-blowing creations using a glass blowing technique.  Other model makers at the time only utilized wax and machè, whereas the Blaschka family created masterpieces with glass. Using glass allowed each piece to showcase intricate details and offered longevity. While some pieces were shaped after the glass was moderated by heat, other particular models were blown. Often times, colored glass was used; other times the models were painted. Pioneers of their time, the Blaschkas were constantly experimenting with innovative techniques to perfect the right color palette, and they often integrated other materials including glue and enamels to ensure that their models were as true to form as possible.

The Glass Flowers enabled students of this time period to study botany, year round. Because all of models are life-size, students were able to accurately study the anatomy of the flowers, as well as some enlarged anatomical parts of the flower.

3. The Renovation will give you a better view

If this seems intriguing so far, you’ll certainly be amazed by the reconstruction progress that the folks at the Harvard Museum of Natural History went through to bring these masterpieces back to life. 

Crews have been hard at work at the museum since November to make sure that visitors have the clearest view of the spectacular glass flowers. Both the glass display cases and historic wood have been reconstructed with non-reflective glass to allow accessible viewing at any angle. Along with new non-reflective glass, crews installed state-of-the-art lighting, humidity and vibration control systems to ensure the flowers stay beautiful for many years to come. The new design provides Cambridge with a spectacular new exhibition, which showcases the distinctive history, supreme creativity and continuous scientific importance of the remarkable Glass Flowers.

4. The Flowers Keep Getting Better

While the remodel has truly brought new life to the gallery and fulfills visitors’ creative needs and desire to explore art, the renovations will still continue for years to come.

Because the flowers date back to 1886 (although you’ve never know it!), the Harvard University Herbaria plan to continue to conserve the models.  Due to the nineteenth-century glue, some of the extremely fragile models have suffered minor impairment over the years and will receive some much-needed TLC. The conservation process will also allow the chance to mount special, themed changing exhibits.  The process ensures that one of Cambridge’s most famous exhibits will continue to be in bloom for many years to come, allowing visitors to return year after year.

5. They’re Always in Bloom

Did we mention the best part about the Glass Flowers?  They’re always in bloom, no matter the season!

Due to the ever-powerful chemical and physical components of glass, these displays are the ideal prototype for botanical models. Glass is the quintessential material to replicate flowers as it clearly depicts the transparency of a petal and the brittleness of a cactus spine. Just like the students from decades (and decades) ago, students of today have continued to learn about botany through this truly stunning and educational exhibit.

After you’ve explored the Glass Flowers, be sure to check out some of the other awe-inspiring at museum. New exhibits are always being added, most of which highlight current science and contemporary issues. There is an abundance of lectures, classes and programs for all ages! Come discover exhibits that focus on everything from minerals and meteorites, to fossils, climate change and much more.

Don’t miss out on some of the most remarkable exhibitions at the Harvard Museum of Natural History, such as Islands: Evolving in Insolation where you’ll discover some of the most inexplicable creatures and animal specimen. The Marine Life exhibition has drawn in quite the crowd as visitors are immersed in the diversity of marine life. For your last stop at the Harvard Museum of Natural History, explore the Earth & Planetary Sciences Gallery. This exhibit focuses on mineral specimens dating back to the start of our solar system.
 

The renowned museum is located at 26 Oxford St in Cambridge MA, just 100 yards from Memorial Hall and the Harvard Science Center.


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