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Mummies and More Await at Harvard Museums

by Barbara Rogers

Apr 1, 2024

© Jackbluee | Dreamstime.com

Destinations / North America

Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, encompasses a cluster of museums where families traveling to Boston will find everything from glittering gemstones to displays on Native Americans to a breathtaking collection of life-like flowers made from glass. In other museums, you’ll find paintings by some of the world’s best-known artists and intricately decorated Egyptian mummy cases.

 

Begin at Harvard Museum of Natural History, where kids can find giant dinosaur skeletons and be mesmerized by rare gemstones and giant crystals in the extensive mineral collection (our daughter must have clicked pictures of half of these before we finally coaxed her away to see the famed glass flowers). The Blashka Glass Flowers were made for botanical studies so students could examine every detail in fragile plants that would wilt too quickly to study in life. It is hard to believe these delicate glass flowers are not real blooms.

 

Attached is Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology, where kids can learn about native cultures through realistic, life-sized displays of home life and activities, focusing on the diversity of North American cultures. The giant totem pole (commissioned especially for the museum to replace one that was repatriated) and the colorful Day of the Dead display are favorites.

 

Most children glaze over after viewing a gallery or two of paintings and artwork, but we find ours stay engaged longer by the French Impressionists. The Harvard Art Museums, now all under one roof, show works by Cézanne, Degas, Manet, Matisse, Picasso, van Gogh and others whose works may be familiar to kids. Stop by the admissions desk (no need to pay, the art museums are free) and ask for complimentary sketchbooks and pencils for your children so they can channel their own inner artist.

 

About the mummies: Harvard Museum of the Ancient Near East displays artifacts from ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Cyprus and elsewhere in well-arranged exhibits, some of which engage children with invitations to touch replica artifacts. Highlights for kids are, of course, the mummy cases. The brightly painted coffin of Ankh-khonsu is covered with images of scarabs and protective deities.

 

The coffin of Mut-iy-iy is painted red to imitate cedar and is more simply decorated, with a painted wig, face, a floral collar and a painted column of hieroglyphs. Besides the mummies, kids are also attracted to the replica of an ancient Israelite house, complete with tools and utensils. The descriptive panel includes “please touch” fabrics and pottery.

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