Harvard's Museums

Harvard’s museums offer some of the finest collections of their kind in the world. A Harvard identification card provides free access to all University museums. A brief description of the permanent collections of some museums is found below. The Gazette lists special exhibitions and events. The Harvard Art Museum offers free admission to the general public Saturday mornings.

Harvard Art Museum

Mon.–Sat., 10 am–5 pm; Sun., 1 pm–5 pm
Closed on national holidays
General Information: 617-495-9400

The Harvard Art Museum is one of the world’s leading arts institutions, comprising three museums (Fogg Museum, Busch-Reisinger Museum, Arthur M. Sackler Museum) and four research centers (Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, Center for the Technical Study of Modern Art, Harvard Art Museum Archives, Archaeological Exploration of Sardis, Turkey). The Harvard Art Museum is distinguished by the range and depth of its collection, its groundbreaking exhibitions, and the original research of its staff. The collection consists of more than 260,000 objects in all media, ranges in date from antiquity to the present, and comes from Europe, North America, North Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, East Asia, and Southeast Asia. As an integral part of Harvard and the community, the three art museums and four research centers serve as resources for students, scholars, and visitors. For more than a century, the Harvard Art Museum has been the nation’s premier training ground for museum professionals and scholars and is renowned for its seminal role in the development of the discipline of art history in this country.

In June 2008, the Harvard Art Museum's building at 32 Quincy Street, formerly the home of the Fogg and Busch-Reisinger Museums, closed for a major renovation. During this renovation, the Sackler Museum at 485 Broadway remains open and has been reinstalled with some of the finest works representing the collections of all three museums. When complete, the renovated historic building on Quincy Street will unite the three museums in a single state-of-the-art facility designed by architect Renzo Piano.

Students are invited to join as Student Members of the Harvard Art Museum. Student Members receive invitations to members-only events, the calendar of exhibitions and programs, and monthly e-mail newsletters, discounted tickets to lectures, seminars, and concerts, as well as a discount in the Art Museum’s shop and on Art Museum publications. Student Members also enjoy special tours, an annual black-tie gala with the director, and other programs and special offers specifically for Members. Annual membership is $45. Please call 617-495-4544 for more information.

The Harvard Art Museum Undergraduate Connection runs social events open to all undergraduates that feature free food and entertainment, as well as tours led by members of the Student Guide Program. All events and projects associated with the Undergraduate Connection are free, educational, and student organized and run. New members are always welcomed for a fun experience based around art. For more information about joining, as well as details about upcoming events: http://hcs.harvard.edu/ourhuam/; or email the organization’s president, Kaley Blackstock, at: klblacks@gmail.com.

Students are invited to apply to become volunteer members of the Harvard Art Museum Student Guide program. The Student Guide program is a select group of students who work closely with the Education Department at the Art Museum. Guides are trained for several months and give tours and informal gallery talks for their peers, as well as for alumni and other members of the Harvard community. The Student Guide program is not limited to art history concentrators; in fact, student guides are encouraged to share the unique perspectives that their different concentrations bring to looking at art. For more information, please contact the Art Museum’s Education Dept. at 617-495-0765.

Arthur M. Sackler Museum

485 Broadway

Designed by the Pritzker Prize-winning British architect James Stirling and opened in 1985, the Arthur M. Sackler Museum has holdings of ancient, Asian, Islamic, and later Indian art. Among its treasures are the world's finest collections of archaic Chinese jades and Japanese surimono, as well as outstanding Chinese bronzes, ceremonial ancient weapons, and Buddhist cave-temple sculpture; Chinese and Korean ceramics; and Japanese woodblock prints, calligraphy, narrative paintings, and lacquer boxes. The Sackler Museum’s collection also contains exceptional holdings of works on paper from Mongol, Timurid, and Safavid Iran (14th–17th centuries), Ottoman Turkey (15th–19th centuries), and Rajput and Mughal India. The ancient art department has one of America's most important teaching collections of Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Near Eastern art, with significant holdings of Greek and Roman sculpture, Greek vases, and ancient coins.

In 2008, the Arthur M. Sackler Museum was reinstalled with works from the Harvard Art Museum's three museums—Fogg, Busch-Reisinger, and Sackler—for a unique exhibition entitled Re-View. The survey of approximately 600 objects includes major and familiar works and features Western art from antiquity to the turn of the 20th century, Islamic and Asian art, and European and American art from 1900 to the present. Re-View is on long-term view at the Sackler Museum and provides a selected, ongoing display of the Harvard Art Museum’s collection while its building at 32 Quincy Street is closed for renovation.

accessWheelchair accessible.

Fogg Museum 32 Quincy Street (closed for renovation)

The Fogg Museum, which opened to the public in 1895, is Harvard's oldest art museum. Its collection consists of Western art from the Middle Ages to the present, with particular strengths in Italian early Renaissance, British Pre-Raphaelite, and 19th-century French art, as well as 19th- and 20th-century American paintings. The Fogg’s Maurice Wertheim Collection is an important collection of impressionist and post-impressionist works and contains many famous modern masterworks, including paintings and sculpture by Cézanne, Degas, Manet, Matisse, Picasso, and van Gogh. Central to the Fogg Museum’s holdings is the Grenville L. Winthrop Collection, a collection of more than 4,000 works of art. Bequeathed to Harvard in 1943, the collection continues to play a pivotal role in shaping the collections and legacy of the Harvard Art Museum, serving as a foundation for teaching, research, and professional training programs. The Winthrop Collection includes 19th-century masterpieces by Blake, Burne-Jones, David, Daumier, van Gogh, Homer, Ingres, Renoir, Rodin, Toulouse-Lautrec, Sargent, and Whistler, as well as early Chinese art, from archaic jades to bronze ritual vessels, weapons, mirrors, bells, ornamental fittings, and Buddhist sculptures in stone and gilt bronze.

Busch-Reisinger Museum 32 Quincy Street (closed for renovation)

The Busch-Reisinger Museum is the only museum in America devoted to promoting the arts of Central and Northern Europe, with a special emphasis on the German-speaking countries. Founded in 1901 as the Germanic Museum, the museum relocated to Adolphus Busch Hall in 1921 and then to Werner Otto Hall at 32 Quincy Street in 1991. The Busch-Reisinger Museum has particularly important holdings of Austrian Secession art, German expressionism, 1920s abstraction, and material related to the Bauhaus. In addition, the Busch-Reisinger Museum has significant holdings of post-war and contemporary art from German-speaking Europe. The collection of unique and editioned artworks by artist Joseph Beuys is among the world's most comprehensive.

Adolphus Busch Hall at 29 Kirkland Street, the former home of the Busch-Reisinger Museum, presently houses plaster casts of medieval art, an exhibition on the history of the Busch-Reisinger Museum, and a famous Flentrop pipe organ, used regularly for Harvard’s organ concert series. It is open to the public on the second Sunday of each month, from 1 pm to 5 pm.

Harvard Museum of Natural History

26 Oxford Street
Daily, 9 am–5 pm

The Harvard Museum of Natural History (HMNH) presents to the public the collections and research of Harvard University’s three natural history institutions: The Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University Herbaria, and the Mineralogical Museum. The HMNH’s mission is to enhance public understanding and appreciation of the natural world and the human place in it, sparking curiosity and a spirit of discovery in people of all ages. To realize the mission, HMNH draws on the vast resources of the Harvard Faculty and on collections numbering close to 23 million specimens. In an effort to showcase more of the vast natural history collections, the HMNH presents special temporary exhibitions with related programming for the whole family.

The HU Herbaria collection includes the internationally acclaimed Ware Collection of Glass Models of Plants. These "Glass Flowers" are a one-of-a-kind collection of over 4,000 models of plants painstakingly and beautifully crafted in glass by Leopold and Rudolph Blaschka, father and son. The project spanned five decades from 1886 to 1936 and culminated in representations of more than 830 plant species. An extensive research collection of Precambrian fossils, dating back 3.5 billion years, and an historically important collection of economic botany materials are also housed in the Museum building on Oxford Street. For information about botanical collections, research, and archives, visit the Harvard University Herbaria’s Website or call 617-495-2365.

The Museum of Comparative Zoology (MCZ) was founded in 1859 by Louis Agassiz. The twelve sub-departments—biological oceanography, entomology, herpetology, ichthyology, invertebrate paleontology, invertebrate zoology, mammalogy, marine biology, mollusks, ornithology, population genetics, and vertebrate paleontology—together comprise one of the world’s most extensive holdings for scientifically described materials (type specimens), geographical range, and historical significance. These collections have gained new relevance as human activity increasingly places species and ecosystems at risk. For information about the MCZ’s archives, call the Mayr Library at 617-495-4576. For information about zoological collections, research, and archives, visit the MCZ Website or call 617-495-2460.

The Mineralogical and Geological Museum maintains internationally important collections of rocks, minerals, ores, and meteorites that support teaching and research, primarily in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. The Museum’s extraordinarily comprehensive mineral collections are featured in both systematic and topical displays in the public galleries. Other specialties include a broadly representative collection of New England minerals, an exhibit of birthstones, and a good selection of meteorites. For more information about mineralogical and geological collections and archives, call 617-495-4758.

accessWheelchair access through basement entrance of the Museum of Comparative Zoology on Oxford Street and through Tozzer Library on Divinity Ave.

The Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology

11 Divinity Avenue, Entrances on Oxford Street and Divinity Avenue
Daily, 9 am–5 pm

The Peabody Museum is a world-class collection museum of archaeology and anthropology. With a collection of 1.2 million objects and half a million photographs, the museum maintains eight public galleries and a teaching gallery. The museum makes accessible anthropological objects for teaching, research, and public education, and encourages anthropological discourse through exhibitions, lectures, symposia, and publications. Formal museum-based study is promoted (Anthropology 92r), summer internships are available, and volunteer or work-study students are welcome. The museum also offers a regular series of lectures and public programs, and opens three to four new exhibitions each year. Admission and most public programs are available free to Harvard students.

The collections include North American Indian artifacts; pre-Columbian holdings from Middle America (particularly the Maya) and Peru; pottery collections from North and South America; materials from the Paleolithic and Iron Age cultures of Africa, Asia, and Europe; West African masks and artifacts from Pacific cultures; and ethnographic specimens from Siberia to Tierra del Fuego. The museum maintains written and photographic archives closely related to its collections. For information about the Peabody Museum’s collections and archives, visit the Peabody Museum Website or email pmresrch@fas.harvard.edu.

accessWheelchair access through Tozzer Library on Divinity Ave. and through the basement entrance of the Museum of Comparative Zoology on Oxford St.

The Semitic Museum

6 Divinity Avenue
Mon.–Fri., 10 am–4 pm; Sun., 1 pm–4 pm (closed holiday weekends)

Founded in 1889 by Jacob Henry Schiff, the Semitic Museum is the principal repository for Harvard’s holdings of Near Eastern archaeological artifacts. Its collections represent all of the major cultural areas of the ancient Near East, including Egypt, Israel, Syria-Palestine, Mesopotamia, Anatolia, Cyprus, and Iran. It houses finds from such sites as Samaria, Shechem, Serabit al-Khadim, Nuzi, Idalion, and Carthage. Access to the research collections is available to qualified scholars by appointment only. The Museum also conducts archaeological research at the ancient seaport of Ashkelon in Israel.

Continuing exhibits at the Semitic Museum are "The Houses of Ancient Israel: Domestic, Royal, Divine," "Ancient Cyprus: The Cesnola Collection," "Nuzi and the Hurrians: Fragments from a Forgotten Past," and "Ancient Egypt: Magic and the Afterlife." There is no charge for admission. Museum shop. .

No wheelchair access; contact the Museum Office for assistance.

The Department of the History of Science Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments

Science Center, 1 Oxford Street
For hours and information, 617-495-2779

Located in the Science Center, the Department of the History of Science’s Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments contains one of the finest university collections of its kind in the world. With close to 20,000 artifacts dating from the 15th century to the present, the Collection covers a broad range of disciplines, including astronomy, navigation, horology, surveying, geology, meteorology, mathematics, physics, biology, medicine, chemistry, experimental psychology, and communications. Noteworthy among these are scientific instruments that Harvard purchased in London with the help of Benjamin Franklin in 1764 after a disastrous fire destroyed the college’s philosophical apparatus in the old Harvard Hall.

The historical value of the instruments is greatly enhanced by original documents preserved in the Harvard University Archives and by over 6,500 books and pamphlets in the Collection’s research library that describe the purchase and use of many of the instruments.

Harvard University has been acquiring scientific instruments for teaching and research for over 300 years, but it was not until 1948 that a serious attempt was made to preserve its historical apparatus as a resource for students and faculty. Since the first exhibition of instruments was held in 1949, the Collection has grown rapidly both from within the university and from private donations. The Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments became affiliated with the Department of the History of Science in 1989. Like many other Harvard collections, its primary purpose is teaching and research, providing students and scholars with the opportunity to examine and work with artifacts that have made science possible.

The department has two museum galleries (located in Science Center 136 and 251), a research library and instrument study room (Science Center 250), a conservation laboratory, and classroom. Curatorial offices are located in Science Center 251c. Please call ahead for library and gallery hours, 617-495-2779.

accessWheelchair accessible.

Arnold Arboretum

125 Arborway, Jamaica Plain
Daily, sunrise to sunset
Information: 617-524-1718

The Arnold Arboretum was founded in 1872 as a research institute and living museum dedicated to the study and appreciation of woody plants. Across its 265 acres grows a collection of over 15,000 trees, shrubs, and vines gathered over the past century from the forests of Asia, Europe, and North America. The Arboretum landscape, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Charles Sprague Sargent, is a National Historic Landmark and part of Boston’s Emerald Necklace park system.

Research programs at the Arboretum are based on its rich collections of living woody plants and herbarium specimens and extensive library holdings. The living collections, located in Jamaica Plain, present a synopsis of the woody flora of the North Temperate Zone, while the Arboretum’s dried specimen collection in the Harvard University Herbaria has special strength in tropical Asian species. The libraries, also in the two locations, contain more than 250,000 items, including reference books, serials, pamphlets, catalogs, manuscripts, and photographs. The libraries are open to faculty and students; the Hunnewell Building library is also open to the general public. Together these collections support studies of plant systematics and evolution, tropical plant ecology and conservation. Through fellowships and direct support, the Arboretum encourages undergraduates, graduate students, and visiting scientists to use its collections and participate in its research programs. The Arboretum offers a summer intern program in practical horticulture as well as field studies in ecology and plant science for elementary school classrooms. The Arboretum’s Landscape Institute, located in Cambridge, conducts professional training in landscape design, historic landscape preservation, and garden history.

The Arboretum is located next to the Jamaica Plain neighborhood in Boston and is accessible by public transportation via the MBTA Forest Hills Station. The landscape is open dawn until dusk every day of the year, and there is no admission charge. Free tours are available April–September. Adult education classes are offered year-round. The Hunnewell Building Visitor Center is open Monday–Friday 9:00 am to 4:00 pm; Saturday 10:00 am to 4:00 pm; and Sunday 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm.

accessThe Hunnewell Visitor Center is wheelchair accessible.