University Boasts Famous and Little Known Collections

Ask the Harvardian how many museums his University possesses, and he will undoubtedly reel off the names of the Fogg and either the Germanic of the Semitic museums. A few even might remember having heard rumors of a vague institution known as the University Museum. But it is indeed a difficult task to find men who are in the know about such establishments, officially going under the title of museums, as the Harvard Seismograph Station, the Institute of Geographical Exploration, the Yenching Institute, or the Cushman Laboratory for Foraminiferal Research.

But, before the Class of 1941 has had time to fall into the pit of indifference, let us say a word about Harvard museums. In brief, they come under four classes, the University Museum, the art museums, the graduate school museums, and the miscellaneous museums.

University Museums


The University Museum is located between Oxford Street and Divinity Avenue. It is divided into five sections, the zoological section, knowns as the Museum of Comparative Zoology, the anthropological section, known as the Peabody Museum, and the botanical, geological, and mineralogical sections. Most publicized collections in the University Museum are the Ware Collection of glass models of flowers in the botanical section and the Holden and Hancock Collections in the mineralogical section.

The three art museums are the Fogg, the Germanic, and the Semitic. Fogg, on Quincy Street, covers every phase of art from very ancient to contemporary. Over 11,000 volumes on fine arts and 127,000 photographs may be found in the museum library. The Fogg print collection is reputed to be one of the finest in the world.


On the corner of Kirkland Street and Divinity Avenue the Germanic Museum may be viewed. Built a little over 20 years ago, this establishment has for its object the illustration of the development of German culture as expressed in art.

At the Semitic Museum, on Divinity Avenue, the most interesting collections may be found in the Assyrian room and in the Palastinian room. The collection of Arabic and Syrian manuscripts is definitely worthy of attention and highly valued.

Practically all of the graduate schools have their museums, and those at the Medical and Dental schools merit much investigation.

Of the miscellaneous group, the Institute of Geographical Exploration is perhaps most interesting for the not too scientific mind. It is located close beside the University Museum, and everything pertaining to the study of geography may be found there. "Quantitative" geography, the accurate measurement and mapping of positions, is given preeminence over "qualitative" work.


Perhaps the most baffling of the miscellaneous establishments is the Harvard Yenching Institute. On the average of nearly once a day the average Harvard man passes the Institute's imposing sign in Boylston Hall. He may be moved to investigate, but the old indifference all too quickly crops out, and with a shrug of his shoulders and possibly a remark such as "Let them yench," he will pass on his way. It takes an inquiring mind to find out that the Institute is carrying on research work for Chinese and Occidental scholars and that it supports several institutions in China and even allots money to Harvard for teaching about the Far East.

Farther away from home we find such things as the Harvard Seismograph Station and the Cushman Laboratory for Foraminiferal Research. The former is located 25 miles north of Cambridge at the Oak Ridge Observatory, while the latter is an almost equal distance in a southerly direction, in Sharon. For those concerned with foraminifera it may be interesting to note that there is a library of 2,000 works about foraminifera at the Cushman Laboratory. Those not concerned with foraminifera are probably glad to learn that the subject is being investigated anyway.


There are still other such institutions in and about Cambridge and a number of distant ones. But by all odds the honor of being most lone wolfish goes to the Boyden Station of the Harvard Observatory in Bloemfontein, South Africa. If we are to believe the bulletins from this spot, the climate is so good that it is only a question of time before the whole University will trek to Bloemfontein.