Before there was science, there was “natural history,” and for decades Harvard  sponsored naturalist exhibitions to catalog the animals, plants, and minerals of the world. The naturalists brought their booty back home, cataloged it, and ensconced it in one of the more endearing and eclectic museums in the area—Harvard Museum of Natural History (26 Oxford St., Cambridge, 617/495-3045, www.hmnh.harvard.edu , 9 a.m.–5 p.m. daily, $9 adults, $7 students and seniors, $6 children 3–18).
The bulk of the Harvard Museum of Natural History is taken up by gallery after gallery of real stuffed animals—taxidermy beasties of all shapes and sizes, from elephants to a pair of pheasants once owned by George Washington. Even more impressive is the rock-and-mineral collection, full of geodes, crystals, and precious stones the size of a small child.
The pièce de résistance of the Harvard Museum of Natural History, however, is undoubtedly the glass flowers. Created by a father-and-son team from Germany, the flowers are meticulous representations of almost 900 species, made entirely from glass. The models are so exacting that they seem real, from the petals on a coneflower to the hairs on the leg of a tiny glass bee.