Botanical Museum Collection

Porcupine needle box

The Botanical Museum, founded in 1858 by Asa Gray and originally called the Museum of Vegetable Products, has predominantly focused on an interdisciplinary study of "useful plants" (economic botany). The nucleus of materials was given by Sir William Hooker, the Director of the Royal Botanic Garden at Kew. George Lincoln Goodale became the first director in 1888; under his direction the building was completed in 1890 and housed both research facilities and public exhibits which were the botanical compliment to the "Agassiz" Museum of Comparative Zoology.

The three successive directors substantially enlarged the collections of economic products, medicinal plants, artifacts, archeological materials, pollen, and photographs. They were Oakes Ames (Director from 1923-1945), Paul C. Manglesdorf (Director from 1945 1967), and Richard Evans Schultes (Curator and Director from 1967 1985). The faculty and students continue to add significantly to the extensive Paleobotanical Collections.

The Botanical Museum consists of the Economic Botany Collections, the Economic Herbarium of Oakes Ames, the Ware Collection of Glass Models of Plants, the Paleobotanical Collection (including the Pollen Collection and the Margaret Towle Collection of Archaeological Plant Remains), the Economic Botany Library and Archives, the Archives of the Oakes Ames Orchid Library, and the Orchid Library of Oakes Ames and Herbarium. The collections are currently housed in the Harvard Museum of Natural History and the Harvard University Herbaria.

Photo of Kalmia from Glass Flower collection

The Ware Collection of Glass Models of Plants, popularly known as the "Glass Flowers," are considered one of the University's great treasures. Commissioned by Goodale in 1886 and created by Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka through 1936, the collection comprises over 4,000 models including life-size and enlarged parts for over 840 species. This is the only collection of its type in the world. The administration of the exhibits at the Botanical Museum and the Museum of Comparative Zoology and Mineralogical Museum, have been merged to create the Harvard Museum of Natural History.