Harvard Museum of Natural History

Museum Monday: Hidden Treasures you might wish you could see

We visit museums to see rare, wonderful and unusual objects on display. But most museums have room to exhibit just 10 percent of their holdings. The rest rarely — or never — sees the light of day. Unless, that is, you have a key to the back rooms where they keep hidden treasures like the ones I found for a slide show on Bing Travel.

Here are some of the highlights from that story.

In the United States, flea circuses were once regular features in carnivals and sideshows. This diorama in the collection of the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis in Indiana features four fleas (heads only) in a village scene and is mounted in a hazelnut that is encased in a matchbox. According to a museum staff member, the tiny diorama is kept in storage because “people would have to line up to see it and it would be difficult for a family to view together.”

This pretty but rarely displayed quilt in the collection of Washington’s Yakima Valley Museum was made in 1928 by the wife of a berry farmer and has a story far more complicated than meets the eye. According to the note that came with the donation, the white fabric in the background came from masks once worn by members of the Ku Klux Klan.

The Harvard Museum of Natural History in Cambridge, Mass., displays 3,200 hand-crafted glass models of flowering plants created between 1886 and 1936 by German glass artists Leopold and Rudolph Blaschka. Not on display are the university’s 430 Blaschka glass models of marine invertebrates, such as this glass model of a Portuguese man of war, which Harvard acquired in the late 19th century.

For more hidden treasures, check back tomorrow.

Love the layover: Easter Bunny Fly-in

Hoping to see the Easter Bunny at the airport?

Travelers passing through Sacramento International Airport won’t get to see Lawrence Argent’s giant, 56-foot long fiberglass red rabbit until 2011, when the airport’s new Terminal B is scheduled to open.


In the meantime, be on the lookout for a surprise Easter Bunny appearance at a major airport near you – or head on over to New Jersey’s tiny Solberg-Hunterdon Airport, about 35 miles west of New York City, where the Easter Bunny is scheduled to arrive by airplane for the annual fly-in family day.


And travelers who find themselves in or around Boston this holiday weekend might want to hop on over to the Harvard Museum of Natural History in Cambridge and take a gander at the egg-ceptional (non-chocolate) eggs in the museum’s “egg spiral.”


Egg specimens in the spiral range in size from a hummingbird egg the size of a coffee bean to the real, basketball-sized egg of the extinct elephant bird, or Aepyornis, which died out in Madagascar in the early 1700’s.

By the way: if this egg still had all its contents, it would hold approximately two and a half gallons – the equivalent of 180 hen’s eggs.

(Egg spiral photo by Adam Blanchette, courtesy Harvard Museum of Natural History)

Love the Layover: Free museum admissions this weekend

Touching down in a city somewhere this weekend?

Take a break from all the bad news about the economy and go visit a museum – for free.


Your local bank may be gone, but Bank of America’s Museums on Us program is still going.  For now. If you’ve got a Bank of America check, ATM, or credit card, you can get free general admission to 70 museums across the country on the first weekend of each month.


A good choice for this weekend: Harvard’s Museum of Natural History in Cambridge, Ma. where all these beautiful and startling images from Egg & Nest, a new book featuring photographs by one of my heroines, Rosamond Purcell, are on display.

harvardegretAll photographs courtesy Rosamond Purcell and Harvard Museum of Natural History.

Free museum tours in 28 cities this weekend

Traveling this weekend?

(Photo: courtesy Adam Blanchette)

Whatever city you’re in, there’s probably a museum offering free admission as part of Bank of America’s Museums on Us program.

During the first full weekend of each month, Bank of America ATM, credit and check cardholders get free access to 70 museums and cultural institutions in 28 cities across the country

One good choice this weekend: The Harvard Museum of Natural History, which has a Halloween-worthy tip sheet families can use to guide them through the galleries in search of scary creatures (snakes, bats, spiders, and more ) and a new Language of Color exhibition which explores how animal colors are produced, the ways in which color is perceived, and the diverse messages that animal colors can convey.

Photo: Paul Bratescu, animalexplorer.com (chameleon)