The Botanical Museum, founded in 1858 by Asa Gray and originally called the Museum of Vegetable Products, has predominantly focused on the study of "useful plants" (economic botany). The nucleus of materials was given by Sir William Hooker, the Director of the Royal Botanical Garden at Kew, and items were added erratically until the collection came under the care of George Lincoln Goodale, the first director of the museum.
Under Goodale's direction, the building was completed in 1890 to provide facilities and public exhibits. Successive directors added substantially to the collections of products, medicinal plants, artifacts, archaeological materials, pollen and photographs. The extensive paleobotanical collections, particularly Precambrian material containing early life forms, continue to be enlarged through faculty and student field work.
The glory of the museum, however, is the Ware Collection of Glass Models of Plants, popularly known as "The Glass Flowers". Commissioned by Goodale from the renowned artisans, Leopold and Rudolf Baschka, the collection still serves as an adjunct to teaching biology, while also attracting worldwide public interest. The approximately 3000 models, created from 1887 through 1936, represent over 840 species, each with a scientifically accurate, life-size model and magnified parts. Financed by Elizabeth and Mary Lee Ware, this collection is the only one of its kind in the world.
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