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COLLECTION Identifier: ecb00011

Harvard Botanical Museum records

Scope and Contents

The Harvard Botanical Museum records contain material about the Museum's administrative, research, teaching, and public exhibition activities. The collection contains materials from 1869-2004 with the bulk of the collection from the 1970s-2004.


  • 1869-2004
  • Majority of material found within 1970-2004

Conditions Governing Access

Harvard University records are restricted for 50 years from the date of record creation, so some parts of the collection, including financial records and some staff records, may be restricted.

These folders have been marked restricted: Series I, Folders 3-5 and 10-15 and 54; Series II, Folders 25 and 34; Series III, Folder 39; and Series VI, Folders 22-24.

Please contact for more detailed access information.


2.2 linear feet (1 record carton, 2 boxes, 1 flat oversize box)

Historical note

The Botanical Museum of Harvard University, which was originally called the Museum of Vegetable Products, was founded in 1858 by Asa Gray from a donation of duplicate economic botany materials given by The Royal Botanic Garden at Kew. In 1888 the University named George Lincoln Goodale the first director; under his direction, the building of the Museum was completed. For nearly a century and a half, the Museum's research, teaching, and public exhibition activities primarily revolved around the interdisciplinary study of economic botany, or "useful plants." Goodale's three successors, directors Oakes Ames (1923-1945), Paul C. Mangelsdorf (1945-1967), and Richard Evans Schultes (1970-1985) significantly expanded the Museum's collections of economic products, medicinal plants, archaeological materials, plant taxonomies, field notes, artifacts, and photographs.

The Museum's academic course offerings date back to 1876, with the installation in Harvard's Department of Biology of "Plants and Human Affairs," the country's oldest course in economic botany. Through its unique public exhibits and varied collections, the Botanical Museum was internationally recognized as one of the leading centers of research in the plant sciences.

In 1998 the Harvard Museum of Natural History (HMNM) was established as the public face of three research museums: the Botanical Museum, the Mineralogical & Geological Museum, and the Museum of Comparative Zoology.

The collections of the Botanical Museum are now a part of the Harvard University Herbaria. These collections include the Economic Botany Collections, the Economic Herbarium of Oakes Ames, the Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants (commonly known as the “Glass Flowers”), the Paleobotanical Collection (including the Pollen Collection and the Margaret Towle Collection of Archaeological Plant Remains), the Economic Botany Library and Archives, the Archives of the Oakes Ames Orchid Library, and the Orchid Library of Oakes Ames and Herbarium.


Arranged into 6 series.

Series I. Office and Administrative Records; Series II. Research Records; Series III. Museum Directors and Personnel; Series IV. Teaching and Exhibits; Series V. Visual Materials; Series VI. Publications and Printed Material.


The majority of material was removed from the office of Susan Rossi-Wilcox, former curatorial associate and administrator for the Glass Flowers Collection at the Botanical Museum. The boxes were transferred to the archives of the Botany Libraries in the summer of 2007. Additional Botanical Museum materials have been added to the collection over time.

Related Materials

Related material at Harvard University: Harvard Botanical Museum 16mm Film Collection, ca. 1943-1978. Harvard Film Archive, Fine Arts Library, Harvard University.
Harvard University. Botanical Museum. Harvard Botanical Museum records, 1869-2004, bulk 1970-2004: A Guide.
Botany Libraries, Economic Botany Library of Oakes Ames, Harvard University.
Description rules
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Botany Libraries, Economic Botany Library of Oakes Ames, Harvard University Repository

Harvard University Herbaria
22 Divinity Ave
Cambridge MA 02138 USA
(617) 495-2366