By Thad Parsons
Open Monday to Friday from 11:00am – 4:00pm, the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments is presented in three display spaces: the main Putnam Gallery (Science Center 136), the Special Exhibitions Gallery (Science Center 251), and the Foyer Exhibition Space (Science Center 371). The galleries are closed on University Holidays. It is open to the public and admission is free. Children must be supervised. For inquiries, call 617-495-2779. Nearest T Station is Harvard Square on the Red Line.
The collection of scientific instruments for teaching and research has been occurring at Harvard since 1672. In 1948, the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments was established to preserve the rich legacy of science and technology present at Harvard. In 1987, it was placed under the direction of Harvard’s Department of the History of Science. Today, it is one of the largest university collections of its kind in the world with over 20,000 objects. Covering periods from the fifteenth century until today and a broad range of scientific disciplines, it is an important research resource for the historian of science and the collection can be accessed online at Waywiser.
The Putnam Gallery contains the Collection’s permanent display, entitled “TIME, LIFE, & MATTER: Science in Cambridge”. The exhibition is book-ended by two large pieces – a decorative orrery and a cyclotron console – and it covers everything from early astronomy and physics to psychology and physiology (download the thematic guide for full coverage). The interested historian can find plenty to interest themselves for hours but the casual visitor can easily experience the permanent gallery in less than an hour.
The other exhibition spaces contain regular special exhibitions, details of which can be found online.