Interior Banner for Harvard Museum of Natural History

The Language of Color

Through October 6, 2013

Whether it’s the brilliant blue wings of a butterfly, the scarlet feathers of a tanager, or the stripes of a zebra, animals display color in vastly different ways and for different reasons. Combining dramatic specimens with video presentations, computer interactives, hands-on activities, and a stunning display of live dart frogs, The Language of Color will help visitors understand the nature of color and pattern, how different animals “see” it, and how animal color and its perception have co-evolved to produce the complex and diverse palette of colors we see in the world today. The exhibit features a wide array of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, mollusks, and insect specimens that illustrate colors used to camouflage, startle predators, mimic other animals, attract a mate, or intimidate a rival. 

Watch a tour of the new exhibit presented by Curator of Mammals at the Museum of Comparative Zoology and Professor of Biology at Harvard University, Hopi Hoekstra.

Read an article in the BBC featuring research conducted by Hopi Hoekstra's Laboratory at Harvard.

Image credit: Paul Bratescu/


Headgear: The Natural History of Horns and Antlers

Through January 18

Discover how and why horns and antlers evolved through dramatic displays and video presentations illustrating their use in combat. Visitors are invited to touch specimens, compare their body height to the world's largest antlers, and explore horn-like structures in animals such as beetles and dinosaurs. Drawing from the collections of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology and Harvard's Semitic Museum, the exhibition will also display artifacts fashioned from the horns and antlers of hoofed animals around the world.
For more information see the press release.


Tangible Things: Objects from Other Harvard Collections at the Harvard Museum of Natural History

Through May 29, 2011

The multi-venue exhibition, Tangible Things: Harvard Collections in World History, prompts viewers to question the ways in which objects are typically classified. Find six objects from other Harvard collections within the Harvard Museum of Natural History’s galleries. These “guest objects” include a dog’s paw-print in mud brick from Mesopotamia dated 1500-1350 BC, on loan from the Semitic Museum; a Tiffany vase (pictured left) from the Harvard Art Museums; and a kidney stone from the Warren Anatomical Museum at the Harvard Medical School. A Guide-by-Cell tour offers visitors an opportunity to learn more about each of these objects.

The core Tangible Things exhibit is located at the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments and includes objects from many Harvard libraries and museums. Guest objects are located in several different venues. The exhibition was developed by Ivan Gaskell, Senior Lecturer in History, and Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, 300th Anniversary University Professor in the History department, as part of the Harvard general education course Tangible Things: Harvard Collections in World History.

Download the exhibition flyer and clue sheet.

Listen to an NPR interview with Ivan Gaskell and Laurel Thatcher Ulrich.

Louis Comfort Tiffany, Floriform Vase, c. 1900. Glass. Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Murray Anthony and Bessie Lincoln Potter, 1957.43. Photo: Katya Kallsen © President and Fellows of Harvard College.  



Domesticated: Modern Dioramas of Our New Natural History
Photographs by Amy Stein

Through April 18, 2010

In Domesticated, New York photographer Amy Stein explores the tenuous relationship between humans and other animals through staged scenes inspired by true events in rural Pennsylvania.

Stein was named one of the top fifteen emerging photographers in the world by American Photo magazine. Her work has exhibited at the ClampArt gallery, New York, NY; Robert Koch Gallery, San Francisco, CA; Pool Gallery, Berlin, Germany; and the Paul Kopeikin Gallery, Los Angeles, CA. For more information see the press release.
Image credit: Amy Stein


Dodos, Trilobites, & Meteorites…Treasures of Nature and Science at Harvard

Through December 13, 2009 

This exhibition showcases never-before-seen treasures from historic expeditions that explored the depths of the oceans, Tibetan mountain peaks, the Brazilian Amazon, America’s western frontier, and other remote environments then unknown to science. It features meteorites and 2 billion-year-old microfossil specimens that offer clues about the formation of the Earth and the origins of its myriad life forms.

Also view a small display of Blaschkas' stunning glass sea creatures including sea anemone, jellies, and slugs.


Egg & Nest: Photographs by Rosamond Purcell

February 12 - March 15, 2009

World-renowned photographer Rosamond Purcell captures the perfection of eggs and the diversity of bird nests with stunning images from her newest book Egg & Nest. Featuring images of specimens from the ornithological holdings of the Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology in California, the exhibition depicts the diverse beauty of eggs, and nests that demonstrate the ingenuity of the birds that build them.

Rosamond Purcell is the author of a number of books, including Owl’s Head and Bookworm. She collaborated with the late Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould on three books, including Crossing Over Where Art and Science Meet.

For more information see the press release

Image credit: Rosamond Purcell. 


Sea Creatures in Glass

March 21, 2008 - March 1, 2009

Many years before they were commissioned by Harvard University to make the “Glass Flowers,” father and son artists Leopold and Rudolph Blaschka meticulously shaped glass and wire into lifelike models of marine animals.

This new exhibition features dozens of these spectacular glass animals, many on display for the first time since Harvard acquired them around 1878. Combined with video, real scientific specimens, a recreation of the Blaschka’s studio, and a rich assortment of memorabilia, these models of marine invertebrates offer intriguing insights into the history, personality, and artistry of the extraordinary men who created them.

Image courtesy of the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology.


Looking at Leaves: Photographs by Amanda Means

May 8, 2008 - February 8, 2009

Dramatic black and white images of single leaves by New York photographer Amanda Means are a monument to the remarkable diversity and beauty of nature's botanical forms. These detailed blow-ups, some printed as large as 38 x 46 inches, were created by using the leaf itself as a photographic negative. The immediacy of the process gives the images an eerie intensity and adds to their compelling beauty.

Raised in rural upstate New York, Means has lived and worked in Manhattan and Woodstock, New York, for 25 years. She is a graduate of Cornell University with an MFA from SUNY Buffalo. Her work is held in the collections of numerous museums and has been exhibited widely in the US, as well as in London, Madrid, and Jerusalem.

For more information see the press release.

Image credit: Amanda Means.


Nests & Eggs

May 2007 - August 2008

Nests & Eggs is a HMNH exhibition that draws on the University’s extensive collections. Visitors of all ages will enjoy learning  some of the myriad ways that birds nurture and protect their young. The exhibition features stunning displays of egg diversity, showcasing specimens that range in size from the basketball-sized egg of the elephant bird to tiny hummingbird eggs. Visitors can get nose-to-nose with a heath hen and her young hatchlings; and compare the familiar cup-shaped nest of a sparrow, the mud nest of a chimney swift, and the intricately woven nest of an African weaver. Combining real specimens, breathtaking photography, illustration, video, and hands-on experiences, Nests & Eggs is sure to delight visitors of all ages.

For more information see the press release


Looking at Animals: Photographs by Henry Horenstein

September 28, 2007 - April 27, 2008

With the vision of both an artist and a scientist, acclaimed Boston photographer Henry Horenstein has created haunting images of creatures from land and sea. His photographs offer new ways to see and think about animals, inviting us to look closer and examine details we might have never before noticed.

Henry Horenstein is Professor of Photography at Rhode Island School of Design and author of 30 books. His monographs include Creatures (1999), Aquatics (2001), Humans (2004), and Close Relations (2007). His work is in the collections of numerous museums, including the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts.

For more information see the press release

Image credit: Henry Horenstein.