Harvard Museum of Natural History

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Attached to the renowned university that shares its name, the Harvard Museum of Natural History is one of Boston’s most popular attractions. Offering visitors a chance to see dinosaurs, minerals, and even glass flowers, this museum has a little something for everyone in your family.

About the Museum

In a town full of Revolution-era attractions, the Harvard Museum of Natural History is practically an infant. It was only opened in 1998 and done so in an attempt to allow public interaction with the research and holdings of the university’s three research museums. Indeed, the Harvard Museum of Natural History is merely an amalgam of the holdings and information coming forth from Harvard’s Herbaria, Museum of Comparative Zoology, and Mineralogical Museum. It is also a physical neighbor of the Peabody Museum of Archeology and Ethnology, one of the world’s oldest anthropological museums, which dates back to the 1860s.

Despite its relatively recent entrance onto the Boston cultural scene, the Harvard Museum of Natural History is the most visited attraction on the university’s property, hosting over 200,000 visitors in 2012. This is due, in part, to the killer combination of artifacts and expertise provided by the university’s endowment and the massive intellectual capital provided by its students and professors. In addition, nearly 33,000 of the visitors to the museum each year consist of school groups clamoring for the unique opportunity to interact with this amazing, often hands-on collection.

With over 21 million specimens owned by the three research museums, the items on display at the Natural History Museum are ever-changing and always interesting. The museum’s permanent exhibitions, however, are equally impressive. They include several dinosaur skeletons, a 1,642-pound amethyst geode, and, perhaps most famously, 3,000 “Glass Flowers,” accurate models of real plants which were used to teach botany students at Harvard throughout the 19th and into the early 20th centuries.

The exhibit space of the Harvard Museum of Natural History resides inside of a 19th century building on the Harvard campus at 26 Oxford St. in Cambridge. The location of the museum in the Harvard Square neighborhood puts it near several other popular Cambridge attractions, including excellent shopping and dining opportunities. This includes not only buildings of the campus itself, such as the Law School and Divinity School, but also puts one within easy reach of the Natural History Museum’s sister intisutions: the Peabody, the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments, the Harvard Art Museums, and the Semitic Museum. These institutions, with the exception of the Art museums, are part of a consortium developed in December 2012.

Main Attraction

Though not nearly as large as many of Boston’s other well-known museums, the Harvard Museum of Natural History offers visitors a unique look at some truly spectacular pieces. And though walking through the museum can be relatively short, the admission price also includes access to the collection at the Peabody Museum next door.

The museum is open daily, closing on Thanksgiving, Christmas (Eve and Day), and New Year’s only. It offers free admission to all current Harvard faculty, staff, and students, plus one guest, every day. Otherwise, admissions rates are for adults, seniors (65+), non-Harvard students, and children (3-18). There are also free admissions days for residents of Massachusetts, active-duty military members and their families, and members of select cultural institutions participating in the ACSI passport program.

In addition to regular exhibition and hours, the museum frequently sponsors lectures, classes, and other special events throughout the year. This includes both family-oriented learning as well as adult education opportunities. They also sponsor after-school and summer programs for children that may include camps, clubs, story time, and individual workshops. They offer resources for educators as well which include field trips, after school enrichment, and classroom resources.

Why It’s a Must-See

Right in the middle of the country’s oldest university, the Harvard Museum of Natural History allows children and adults the chance to engage and interact with some of the most fascinating aspects of its own university’s work. Taking a day in Cambridge or at Harvard Square without including this rich cultural experience on the way is truly missing out on some of the best resources that Harvard, the city of Boston, and New England in general have to offer.

Where to Buy It

Pay Full Price and purchase a ticket from Harvard Museum of Natural History either online or in person.

Save up to 20% online at Smart Destinations. If you add more than one attraction to the cart, you will get an automatic savings of up to 20%. It’s called Make Your Own Pass.

Purchase a Tourist pass. The Harvard Museum of Natural History is available on the Go Boston Card and Boston CityPass.