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COLLECTION Identifier: ecb00006

The Archives of Rudolf and Leopold Blaschka and the Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants

Scope and contents

Includes curatorial files containing primarily correspondence and photographs relating to the acquisiton, display and research of the Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants. Major correspondents include the creators of the glass flowers, the Blaschkas; the donors, Elizabeth and Mary Lee Ware; museum directors George Lincoln Goodale and Oakes Ames; and various individuals relating information, or with inquiries about the collection. Photographs include about 50 glass plate negatives of some of the flower models in the Collection; a research collection of about 500 slides, dating from the 1950s when the models were used as a teaching collection at Harvard; and portraits of the Blaschkas, Wares and Museum staff and photographs of the Blaschka models, in black and white and color, and including negative as well as positive images. Other material includes a diary, 1931, of Louis Bierweiler, documenting his trip to Hosterwitz, Germany as curator of the museum to visit Rudolf Blaschka; a folder of receipts and bills, 1892; information about the 1974 travelling exhibit of glass flowers to Japan and museum publications on the models; and biographical files on museum staff.

Dates

  • 1886-2020

Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English and German.

Conditions Governing Access

Most of the collection is open for research by appointment. Researchers must register and provide one form of valid photo identification.

However some parts of the collection, including financial records and some staff records, are restricted because access to Harvard University records are restricted for 50 years from the date of record creation.

Please contact botref@oeb.harvard.edu for additional information.

Extent

58 linear feet

Historical note

The Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants, commonly referred to as the Glass Flowers, is a collection of nearly 3,000 models made by Leopold Blaschka (1822-1895) and his son Rudolph (1857-1939). Heirs to a long tradition of glass-working in Bohemia, they established a studio outside of Dresden, Germany, where they fashioned glass replicas of marine invertebrates for museums worldwide.

The Harvard Botanical Museum was established in 1878 under the direction of George Lincoln Goodale. Their work drew the attention of Goodale, who was searching for a way to represent living plants to botany students. Frustrated by the shortcomings of traditional methods of preservation and wax and papier-maché models, Goodale believed glass was the answer. In 1886 he traveled to Germany and met with the Blaschkas to discuss his idea.

The first models arrived at Harvard in 1887. Despite having been broken in customs, Goodale recognized their excellence. With the financial backing of Elizabeth Cabot (Lee) Ware (1819-1898) and her daughter, Mary Lee Ware (1858-1937), Goodale negotiated a full-time contract with the Blaschkas in 1890. The collection was dedicated to the memory of Elizabeth's husband, Charles Eliot Ware (1814-1887), a naturalist and professor at Harvard Medical School. Mary Ware took an active role in the collection, personally unpacking each model and arranging for Rudolph Blaschka's fieldwork in the United States and Jamaica.

The Blaschkas worked at a remarkable pace. At the time of Leopold's death in 1895, over 2,000 models had been completed. Rudolph continued the project alone. He was nearly 80 when the final shipment was sent in 1936.

Custodial History - Mollusk collection

Series III. Subseries IV. Mollusk collection was transferred to the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Blaschka Glass Invertebrate Collection.

Provenance

The collection was previously housed with other material from the Harvard University Botanical Museum. The collection was transferred to the Archives of the Economic Botany Library of Oakes Ames in 2006-2007 by Curatorial Associate and Administrator of the Glass Flowers, Susan Rossi-Wilcox.

Former Botanical Museum directors George Lincoln Goodale (1839-1923), Oakes Ames (1874-1950), and Richard Evans Schultes (1915-2001) spent most of their professional careers at Harvard. Materials from those former directors were transferred to the collection informally over time. Additional material from the Blaschka Estate was purchased in 1993, most was shipped to Harvard in 1993, but there were additional shipments in 1997-1998.

Administrative series, including Series VII. Harvard University Botanical Museum, Series VIII. Publications, and Series IX. Loan and Use of Collections, are still active.

Related Materials

Related Materials at Harvard:

The Harvard University Herbaria has a collection of more than 300 specimens that were collected by Rudolf Blaschka and various Harvard affiliated botanists in 1892 and 1895 when he visited Jamaica and the United States. The specimens remained in the Harvard Herbaria collection when Rudolf returned to Germany.

The Harvard University Herbaria houses the Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants , commonly known as the “Glass Flowers." This unique collection of over 4,300 models, representing more than 780 plant species, was created by glass artisans Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka, a father and son team of Czech glass artists. The Harvard Museum of Natural History features a Glass Flowers gallery, where glass flower models are exhibited.

Blaschka Glass Invertebrates at The Museum of Comparative Zoology contains approximately 430 models of marine and terrestrial invertebrates, including sea anemones, jelly fish, octopus, sea cucumbers, marine worms and land snails. In May 2014, a new permanent exhibition of the MCZ’s Blaschka glass invertebrate models opened at the adjacent Harvard Museum of Natural History.
Related Materials at other institutions:

Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka Collection, MS-0013, The Rakow Research Library Manuscript Collection Repository, Corning Museum of Glass.

Digitization note

In 2015, portions of the archive were digitized with funding from Harvard Library. The digitization project was titled Art Meets Science : Archives of The Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants. Most of the correspondence and photographic materials were digitized as part of the project.

Processing Information

Processing Information In 2020, the collection was re-inventored in detail. Some series were expanded to include additional archival description, box information, folder numbers, and when applicable, accession numbers. Digitized content was linked to the corresponding description in the finding aid. Previously, Series IV. Genealogical and Biographical Information, was not described. Series IV is now described on the finding aid.
Link to catalog
Title
The Archives of Rudolf and Leopold Blaschka and the Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants: A Guide.
Status
under_revision
Author
Botany Libraries, Economic Botany Library of Oakes Ames, Harvard University.
Date
2020
Description rules
dacs
Edition statement
This is the second edition of The Archives of Rudolf and Leopold Blaschka and the Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants finding aid.
EAD ID
ecb00006

Repository Details

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

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