Glass Jellies & Giant Ground Sloths: The Harvard Museums



Before I launch into this natural history extravaganza, let me deal with some housekeeping matters: thank you for putting up with a day of theme weirdness on Sunday while I completely redesigned Sarr Trek’s look! I think the new aesthetic better captures my own interests and style–plus, it’s super cute. (If you haven’t seen my actual site in a while, you should give it a quick look!)

Anyway, my celebration of our Thanksgiving trip to the Boston & North Shore area continues today: this time with more squid and science! Though I’ve heard much of them, I’d never visited any of Harvard’s museums, so our family adventure was the perfect way to check the Cambridge group off my gallery bucket list. As someone who works at an art museum, I have a soft spot for natural history museums and other institutions that showcase things entirely different from my workplace’s collections. It’s a lot of fun to see how curation and education functions in other fields of study.

Also, I mean, I just really love fossils and stuff, so, you know.



Our main attraction at the natural history museum was the Blaschka collection of marine invertebrate models. During my undergraduate studies, I worked at the Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University, where we also boasted a small set of these gorgeous glass creatures. Perfectly replicating the soft tissue of these ephemeral animals, these models were created for educational purposes: they were good teaching objects for scientists that lasted infinitely longer than actual specimens.

Moving from invertebrates to someone with a little more backbone…


I’m really not a fan of great halls of taxidermied specimens–although they do make me feel like I’m lost in the nineteenth century, the roving glass eyes seriously creep me out–but I did love the display of whale skeletons that accompanied the stuffed beasts.

People get all excited about dinosaurs, and it’s breathtaking to remember that our oceans are still filled with impossibly enormous giants: and whales are mammals too!


Finally, I wouldn’t be a true critical art historian if I didn’t stop by the museum of archaeology and ethnology (conveniently located in the same building as the natural history museum). My October trip to Dumbarton Oaks, however, has forever altered my standards for the display of pre-Columbian art, so I was inevitably disappointed by some of the curatorial choices present in these galleries.

Also disappointing was the way in which the crowded galleries suddenly emptied the moment we crossed the border from natural history and science to indigenous art of Americas: kids are more fond of old bones than the Olmec, it seems! I’m sure many parents think of the latter museum as more of an “adult” collection–but children can be fascinated by sculpture and art objects if you introduce it to them in the right way.

My objective as an educator is to show kids that nobody’s too young for art or history. In fact, if you learn to value it at a young age, that passion is lifelong: perhaps affecting your decision to support the arts later in life!

One thought on “Glass Jellies & Giant Ground Sloths: The Harvard Museums

  1. marinegirl1 December 1, 2015 / 10:24 am

    I went to the Harvard Museum of Natural History a few years ago and absolutely loved it, especially all the whale skeletons (I know what a surprise ;)). It was so much fun trying to figure out what species we were looking at from the skeletons. Unfortunately we didn’t have a lot of time as it was close to closing so we didn’t have the chance to look at the other museums. Your photos are lovely as always 🙂

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