Harvard Natural History Museum

The famous "Harvard Mastodon."
Been matriculating here since 1846.
March 24, 2012 — Any day spent at a natural history museum is a day well-spent. And, because I’m paid by the hyperbole, I might even go so far as to say it validates being born. Take the Harvard Natural History Museum. In just a couple of hours, I walked beneath the massive skeletons of whales, saw more meteorites than in a lifetime of sky-gazing, and came pupil-to-pupil with the glass eyes of a taxidermy menagerie representing almost the entire zoological spectrum. I couldn’t get closer to nature even if I were out in nature.

The Harvard Natural History Museum is located at 26 Oxford Street in Cambridge, MA. The museum is actually the publically accessible parts of three different Harvard research institutions, the Museum of Comparative Zoology, the Harvard University Herbaria, and the Mineralogical and Geological Museum, all of which range in age between 120 and 150 years old. That means that’s there a lot of great stuff on display, and probably even cooler stuff hidden away in the archives.

Meteorite fragments. The geology room was full of
minerals and crystals in all kinds of surreal colors,
shapes, and textures.
We accidentally timed our visit for Paleo Planet, an event focused on the earlier chapters of natural history. Basically, tables staffed by scientists and volunteers were set up in all the various rooms of the museum. Some of the tables had fossils and bones that you could handle and examine, others had children’s activities like coloring and drawing, and a couple even had live animals like birds and tarantulas and emperor scorpions. I actually got to hear a Madagascar cockroach hiss for the first time and met a paleontologist. They do exist.

Incidentally, admission to the Harvard Natural History Museum also includes access to the adjoining Peabody Museum of Archeology and Ethnology. But that’s a topic for another day. We have massive sea dinosaurs, live scorpions, and glass cephalopods to get to.

This 42-foot skeleton of the behemoth Kronosaurus
Amazingly detailed glass cephalopods. It also has a room
full of glass flowers that date back to the late 1800s. The
plants are so realistic it's almost impossible to tell them
from the real things by sight. 

Three whale skeletons covered the entire ceiling of one
of the animal exhibit rooms.


  1. Well, I hate to do it but I have to be That Person and say the Kronosaurus ain't no dinosaur; dinosaurs did not and do not live in the ocean; unless you count penguins; blah.

    But thank you for the loving tribute to my favorite ever place to draw all day. Can't believe I missed out on the Paleo Planet event!

  2. Wait, paleontologists DO exist? I thought that was only in the movies! ;-)