Harvard’s Peabody Museum

I saw 2 passenger pigeons in one year!  Once counted in the millions, these common birds became extinct in 1914.  Although fossils have been found in 25 states, only models of them now exist until scientists find some passenger pigeon DNA and revive the species.  I saw one pigeon in the excellent, 5 Compass Beaty Biodiversity Museum on the campus of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and the other at the equally excellent, 5 Compass Peabody Museum on the campus of Harvard University in Boston.

Ruth and I went to the Peabody to see the glass flowers.   Harvard Professor Goodale had a problem.  He wanted good models of plants to teach botany and could only find crude paper and wax examples, so he tracked down Rudolph Blaschka, A Czech glassblower in Germany who produced about 2,000 glass flowers in his studio near Dresden for the university over a period of 50 years beginning in 1886.  Mrs. Elizabeth Ware and her daughter financed the collection and gave it to Harvard.  Except for wire support, the flowers are completely glass.  This is hard to believe when you see them.  They sat in dusty cases in the Peabody Museum until someone had the idea to clean them up.  The newly renovated gallery they’re in has rapidly become a very, very popular attraction.

The passenger pigeon is not among the flowers.  It’s in another display.  I couldn’t believe the Peabody’s diversity and size!  It’s truly one of the best archaeology and ethnology museums in the world, taking up 3 floors to show just some of its collections.  Floor 3 is where the glass flowers and gift shop are.  But this floor also has earth and planetary sciences, a climate change display, a vast array of gems and minerals that was Ruth’s favorite area, and much more.  The pigeon is among the treasures shown on this floor as is the curious Tongue Biter Parasite peeking out from the mouth of a rose snapper below.

After spending far too much time on this floor, we went upstairs to see a completely new exhibit that had just opened.  Called “All the World Is Here”, it, by itself, is reason enough to travel to Boston.  Fearing that it would go away before I could recommend it, I spoke to the woman who put it together.  Luckily, she was showing her achievement to another guest while we were there.  Regretfully, I didn’t get her name.  She estimated that “All the World Is Here” will be up for about 10 years because it was so arduous and expensive to put together.  It’s there to celebrate the Peabody’s 150th anniversary and the invention of American Anthropology.

This museum introduced itself to the world at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exhibition in Chicago.  Entering this new exhibit is like visiting this famous fair that was beautifully written about in one of my favorite books, The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson.  This book will soon become a Martin Scorsese film.  This fair entertained travelers with the world’s 1st ferris wheel that could carry 2,160 passengers at one time.  The director of the Peabody at the time, Frederic Putnam, used the opportunity to show several hundred of its artifacts to the fair’s 27 million visitors.

We lingered so long in the glass flowers, gems, and world’s fair display that we didn’t have time for the first floor, which has several Native American displays.  Get to know the Peabody.


About roadsrus

Since the beginning, I've had to avoid writing about the downside of travel in order to sell more than 100 articles. Just because something negative happened doesn't mean your trip was ruined. But tell that to publishers who are into 5-star cruise and tropical beach fantasies. I want to tell what happened on my way to the beach, and it may not have been all that pleasant. My number one rule of the road is...today's disaster is tomorrow's great story. My travel experiences have appeared in about twenty magazines and newspapers. I've been in all 50 states more than once and more than 50 countries. Ruth and I love to travel internationally--Japan, Canada, China, Argentina, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, etc. Within the next 2 years we will have visited all of the European countries. But our favorite destination is Australia. Ruth and I have been there 9 times. I've written a book about Australia's Outback, ALONE NEAR ALICE, which is available through both Amazon & Barnes & Noble. My first fictional work, MOVING FORWARD, GETTING NOWHERE, has recently been posted on Amazon. It's a contemporary, hopefully funny re-telling of The Odyssey. View all posts by roadsrus

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