Fish Tales

The central diorama, a model of New England’s watersPhotograph by Jim Harrison
Specimens from the Museum of Comparative Zoology collections complete the exhibitionPhotograph by Jim Harrison

The Harvard Museum of Natural History in November unveiled its new exhibition on marine life. The centerpiece (shown here), a cleverly lit diorama, depicts New England coastal waters from the shallows to the depths: a pioneering way to educate and entrance visitors without penning living specimens in a small habitat. That display neatly complements the adjacent gallery on the region’s forests, and closes what curators describe as a “gaping hole” in the exhibitions, which have underrepresented Earth’s aquatic environment and the staggering biodiversity it supports.

A few hundred mounted specimens in surrounding cases (from the millions of molluscs and fish among the comparative zoology holdings) give a sense of evolution, species variation, and the sheer beauty of nature. Youngsters will enjoy the interactive explanations of nomenclature (focusing on jellies), and of Harvard scientists’ work. They will likely like the huge Australian trumpet shell (Syrinx aruanus, a type of snail), and be thrilled or repelled by the giant isopod (Bathynomus giganteus, a crustacean) at rest in its jar. What parent could resist the vivid orange lion’s paw scallop (Nodipecten nodosus)—or withhold a smile at the name of the diminutive Wolf fangbelly (Petroscirtes lupus, one of the Pacific coral-reef combtooth blennies)?


In the diorama at the center of the new marine-life exhibition, the lighting design subtly transports viewers from the the sunlit surface of the water, at right, toward deeper habitats, on the left.
Photograph by Jim Harrison

You might also like

Harvard Overhauls Disciplinary Procedures

To cope with violations of University statement on rights and responsibilities

Harvard’s Development Chief Departs

Brian Lee to step down at end of 2024

Immigrant Workers— America’s Engine?

Harvard economist Jason Furman on immigration and the U.S. economy.

Most popular

Mechanical Intelligence and Counterfeit Humanity

Reflections on six decades of relations with computers

The Power of Patience

Teaching students the value of deceleration and immersive attention

The Tiger Daughter, Intact

Lulu Chua-Rubenfeld '18 embraces her upbringing.

More to explore

Relabeling Medical Definitions for Obesity in the United States

For obesity patients, improved treatments and a nuanced understanding of the disease may lead to better health.

How Was Brooklyn Bridge Park Planned?

Michael Van Valkenburgh and the making of Brooklyn Bridge Park

The Mystery Behind an Incan Tunic

Unraveling an Inca masterpiece’s secrets