Send them out or keep them here? The dilemma of loaning Harvard’s Glass Flowers

Scott E. Fulton and Susan M. Rossi Wilcox

Abstract

The year 2000 marked a milestone in the history of the Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants at Harvard University. This was the year that a selection of these intricate constructions, popularly known as the Glass Flowers, made a historic return trip to France, the first since their celebrated showing at the Paris Exposition of 1900.

This paper will present an overview of the history of the Glass Flowers and their creators; the materials, techniques and methods of fabrication; and a brief discussion of the conservation of the collection, before broaching the topic of traveling these objects. Aside from the inherent conservation challenges and unique packing problems presented by the fragile models, there were unavoidable issues of compromise and decision-making between collections manager, curator and conservator. This paper touches on one international venue, the 2000 French National Millennium exhibition La Beauté in Avignon, the problems faced in packing and transporting a select group of the Glass Flowers, the lessons learned, and the subsequent successful outcome.

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