The Boston Birthday.

Ah, the end of August. That time of year when students return to school from summer vacation, parents begin the annual back-to-school shopping sprees, and the Boston metropolitan area witnesses several hundred thousand college and university students returning to their studies. This weekend, my friends had planned a dinner to celebrate my birthday, and so I had driven to Cambridge, Massachusetts to meet them. While the day was wonderful, not all of it went according to plan. There was one enormous benefit for my readers, however: what had been planned as a quiet Saturday of relaxation became an unexpected blog post!

I intended to wait for my friends by reading in Widener Library at Harvard, one of my favorite places to relax. However, this plan was sidetracked when I realized that Saturday was move-in day for upperclass students in Harvard Yard. Hundreds of undergrads from the various Houses (as the residence halls are known at Harvard) had crammed into the yard to participate in contests and earn honors for their Houses. What I had forgotten was how noisy move-in day was. Sitting in Widener, despite being behind walls that were several feet thick and windows that were heavily glazed to provide sound deadening, the students were so noisy, they felt like they were in the library with me. Apparently, no reading was going to get done.

Instead, I ventured a few blocks away, to the Harvard Museum of Natural History. Established in 1998, HMNH brought together three museums that dated to the mid-19th century: the University Herbaria, the Museum of Comparative Zoology, and and the Mineralogical Museum. My admission ticket also gave me access to the world-renowned Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, which is physically connected to HMNH. I spent my afternoon touring these fascinating museums, and I thought I would share it with you.

Map of Boston and Cambridge, with a pin in the Harvard Museum of Natural History
The site of this weekend’s unintended post. Some of the other places on the map should be starting to sound familiar from previous tours!
2012 Honda Accord coupe in underground parking garage.
Stashing DH in one of the underground parking garages in Harvard Square. Yes, it’s more money than street parking, but I have seen how people treat other cars when they are parallel parking in the city… no thank you.
Loker Reading Room in Widener Library.
Loker Reading Room in Widener Library. It LOOKED like a quiet, peaceful place to read. It SOUNDED like the Super Bowl.
Harvard students playing games on the Yard in front of Widener Library.
Students from various houses, competing in contests and games. I watched for a little while; the games were fiercely competitive. If you live in Mather House, you most certainly do not want to see Winthrop or Quincy beat you. At center, a tug of war contest.
Exterior of the Harvard Museum of Natural History.
My hastily improvised destination for the afternoon: The Harvard Museum of Natural History. The campus looks like a scene from Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Arthropods in glass jars.
The first exhibit I encountered were these preserved Arthropods. Or, as I like to call them, “Nightmare Fuel.”
Exhibit on the evolution of horses.
An exhibit on the evolution of the horse. The little one on the left (Mesohippus) is a form of a horse that lived in the Dakotas approximately 30 million years ago.
Skeleton of a Giant Sloth.
The isolation of South America caused some unique animal species to appear. This is the Giant Sloth, which lived until about 8500 BC. A little different than its cute and cuddly descendants that have become popular recently, the Giant Sloth grew to approximately 20 feet in length.
Stuffed Siberian Tiger on display.
The museum boasts a large collection of preserved animals- its a taxidermist’s dream. In the deepest recesses of my brain, I worried, momentarily, that this Siberian Tiger would come back to life, Night At the Museum-style.
Skeleton of Kronosaurus.
The museum boasts the only complete Kronosaurus skeleton, a marine dinosaur that swam the oceans of the world about 100 million years ago.
Right Whale Skeleton, suspended from ceiling.
Three whale skeletons are on display, including this one of a Right Whale. The strands you see in its skull are baleen, which the whale would use to filter out food from the ocean waters.
Entrance to the Peabody Museum.
As someone who once began the pursuit of a PhD in comparative religion, archaeology and ethnology are still enormous interests of mine. The Peabody has long been on my “must visit” list.
Eagle feather headdress from North American Plains Indians.
You begin with a tour of weapons and ceremonial dress of people from around the world. These headdresses of North American Plains Indians would be used to demonstrate the power of the warrior who wore them.
Samurai Helmet from Japan.
This is a Samurai helmet from Japan.
Armor and dagger from Alaska.
This armor, helmet, and dagger are from the Tlingit, a native people who lived in Alaska.
Mural of Decapitator God, from Peru. The deity holds a dagger in his right hand and a decapitated head in his left.
This mural is of the Decapitator God, which was found in Peru (this is a reconstruction- the original is still in Peru). This was one of the coolest things I saw.
Exhibit on Central American temples. Several stone altars are in the photograph.
The museum features a very large exhibit of Central American temples and altars.
Altar Q, a square shaped alter with carved imagery.
…including Altar Q, from Honduras. Altars such as this one were used for human sacrifice of both adults and children.
Exhibit on the World's Columbian Exposition.
The fourth floor houses an exhibit on Harvard’s contribution to the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, also known as the 1893 World’s Fair. Harvard contributed heavily to the archaeological exhibitions on display at the Fair. If you are looking for a great read, Devil in the White City by Erik Larson tells the true story of the 1893 World’s Fair, and the mass murderer who lurked in its shadows (who is considered one of the first serial killers in American history).
Large Apache woven basket.
This large Apache woven basket from the 19th century came to the museum in 1928. As someone who is part Native American, I was impressed by how good of a job the Peabody did in presenting the story of the Native American peoples (in contrast to what I witnessed at the Provincetown Museum last month).
Native American totem pole.
This totem pole from the Tlingit peoples of Alaska is used to recount the Brown Bear Legend of a Teikweidi Clan of the Tlingit.
Tarantula in an enclosure.
Not everything in these museums is inanimate. On the way out of HMNH, I spotted this tarantula. My grandmother, who grew up in New Mexico, would tell me how, at her childhood home, a familiar ritual every morning was to shake the tarantulas out of your shoes, which had taken residence inside during the course of the night. Despite their fearsome appearance, tarantulas are not fatal to humans, and will go out of their way to avoid having to bite someone.
Dire wolf skeleton behind glass.
On the way out, I spotted this Dire Wolf skeleton. The largest wolf to have ever lived, dire wolves play a major role in the book and TV series Game of Thrones. The North Remembers.
View of the Weeks Bridge over the Charles River. The Harvard Boathouse is on the left.
After the museum, I took a stroll by the Charles River.
Redbones barbecue restaurant in Somerville, MA.
For my birthday, my friends treated me to a wonderful dinner at Redbones, a barbecue restaurant in Somerville, MA.
Table with four entrees including ribs, brisket, and chicken.
One of the few shots where our table didn’t look like the Velociraptor feeding pen in Jurassic Park. If you get to Redbones, definitely try their beef brisket. 
View of the Boston skyline on I-90.
Heading home after a wonderful birthday!

It was a wonderful birthday weekend. Despite some changes to my original plans, I had a terrific time exploring and also spending time with dear friends. The Harvard Museum of Natural History is open daily from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm. Admission, which covers HMNH and the Peabody, is $12 for adults, students with ID and seniors 65+ can enter for $10, children ages 3-18 are $8, and children under 3 can enter for free. The museum is also free to Harvard ID holders, and Massachusetts residents can enter for free during select times on Sundays and Wednesdays. If you are in the Boston area, HMNH is definitely worth a visit. Thanks for coming along on another journey down the open road ahead!

‘Til next time.



7 thoughts on “The Boston Birthday.

  1. Happy happy birthday! Well shoot, now I want to see video footage of all the velociraptors during feeding time at Redbones 🙂 Looks tasty. Glad you made the most of your birthday. I see Boston Duck Tours on the map at the beginning of the post. When can we expect to see a write-up on one of those?

    Liked by 1 person

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