Campus & Community

Eclipsed for decades, Harvard’s glass animals step out

1 min read

Long overshadowed by their famed floral kin, some of the exquisite 19th century glass animals housed at Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology (MCZ) have finally hit the road for a Minnesota exhibit – the first time in Harvard’s nearly 130-year ownership that the rare sculptures are known to have left Cambridge.

The exhibit of 29 invertebrate models, dubbed “The Glass Sea Treasures of Harvard: The Age of Darwin,” continues through next February at the Underwater Adventures Aquarium in Bloomington, Minn. At that time, the newly cleaned and restored creatures are expected to migrate eastward en masse for a possible exhibition on campus.

Originally used by universities and museums the world over as state-of-the-art teaching models in the wake of Charles Darwin’s “The Origin of Species,” the glass animals arrived at Harvard around 1878. When considered with the glass flower collection, the cache of 433 lifelike, scientifically accurate, and anatomically correct sculptures comprise the world’s largest extant Blaschka collection. A significant collection of the animals housed in Dresden, Germany, was destroyed by bombing during World War II; other North American collections are held by the Boston Museum of Science and Cornell University.