Papers of the Harvard Botanical Museum

The Botanical Museum Papers is a wide-ranging collection comprised of materials pertaining to the Museum’s administrative, research, teaching, and public exhibition activities.

Administrative material consists of loan and permission records relating to the economic botany collections; planning and financial papers; general correspondence; and publications and printed material records. Although a few items date prior to the late 1960s, most range from the late 1970s to 2004. Additional administrative files also cover the Harvard University Museum [Four Museums Under One Roof: The Botanical Museum, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Mineralogical and Geological Museum, and the Peabody Museum]. The majority of these papers originate in the late 1970s; however the early 1900s and the late 1990s are also represented.

The Botanical Museum’s research records document the work of various botanists and other researchers from the late 1970s to 2001. Fields of interest include economic botany, the archaeological study of maize, and paleobotany. Papers of the Museum Directors and staff members constitute an important part of the collection, including records relating to Oakes Ames, the Museum’s second Director (1923-1945), and Paul C. Mangelsdorf, Ames’ successor (1945-1967). The only materials that apply to Richard E. Schultes, Director from 1970-1985, are several photographs, along with some color positives of a painting depicting Schultes with his blowgun in the Nash Lecture Hall.

Teaching and exhibition material consists of “Plants and Human Affairs” course manuals, as well as records involving the Nash Lecture Hall. Many exhibit-related papers are also featured, such as exhibit designs, visitor’s registers, and other documents. This collection contains minimal information about the Glass Flowers.

The Botanical Museum Papers holds a rich collection of photographs, including beautifully mounted photographs of the Botanical Museum’s interiors, the Nash Lecture Hall, and the Glass Flowers Exhibition. Some photographs date back to the late 1880s and others continue through to the year 2000. More visual materials include museum brochures, floor plans and other graphics, in addition to the 1954 television exposé by WNAC-TV Boston. Of note is early artwork by Blanche Ames, dating from 1915-1917 and 1936. Illustrations by Ruth Barton (1960-1961) and the Christmas cards by Elmer Smith (1960-1962, 1969-1971, and 1974) also contribute to the unique materials that comprise the Botanical Museum Papers.