One of the museum’s most famous treasures is the internationally acclaimed Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants, the “Glass Flowers." This unique collection of over 4,000 models—some 3,000 on display—was created by the glass artisans, Leopold Blaschka and his son, Rudolf. The commission began in 1886, continued for five decades, and represents more than 830 plant species.
The museum recently installed several Blaschka glass models from the Ware Collection which have not been seen at Harvard for over a decade. See amazingly realistic models of apple and apricot plants illustrating some of the diseases affecting fruits of the Rosaceae family. Other newly installed models illustrate insect pollination, showing bees enlarged to five inches in size to show pollination techniques.
Visiting the Galleries and Group Tours
The Glass Flowers gallery is open during regular museum hours and is included in the general admission fee. Click here for hours, fees, and directions. For more information about group tours of the Glass Flowers, please call (617) 495-2341.
The Most Commonly Asked Questions about the Glass Flowers
Are they really glass?
Yes, the models are made entirely of glass often reinforced internally with a wire support.
Who made the Glass Flowers?
The models were created by father and son Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka, nineteenth century glass artisans who perfected their family craft. Their lineage of jewelers and glassmakers trace as far back as the fifteenth century.
How were the models made?
The parts were shaped after the glass was softened by heat. Some models were blown. Colored glass was used for many, others were "cold painted" with a thin wash of colored ground glass or metal oxide(s) and heated until the material fused to the model.
When were they made?
The models were made from 1887 through 1936.
Where were the Glass Flowers made?
The Blaschka's studio was located in Hosterwitz, near Dresden, Germany.
Why were the models made?
Harvard Professor George Lincoln Goodale, founder of the Botanical Museum, wanted life-like representatives of the plant kingdom for teaching botany. At the time only crude papier-maché or wax models were available.
The life-size models include 847 species, with remarkably accurate anatomical sections and enlarged flower parts. Since the Glass Flowers are always in bloom, tropical and temperate species may be studied year-round.
Mrs. Elizabeth C. Ware and her daughter Mary Lee Ware financed the collection and presented it to Harvard University as a memorial to Dr. Charles Eliot Ware, Class of 1834.
The Museum Shop and Amazon offer The Glass Flowers at Harvard, a beautiful photograph essay book about the Glass Flowers. The Museum Shop also offers Drawing Upon Nature: Studies for the Blaschka's Glass Models, which tells the fascinating story behind the world famous glass flowers and other creations by Rudolf and Leopold Blaschka.