In the fall of 2015, I had the chance to see the famous glass flowers collection at Harvard not long before it closed for renovation. It was a dim place, with murky lighting over wooden cases. It had that feel of a museum that had lost its benefactor. Still, the plants were glorious.
They’re made of glass, from the 19th century mostly. There are 4,300 of them.
A father and son, German glass artists, worked for more than fifty years on this collection.
They do not look like glass.
And they are all exact renderings of each plant. It’s not decoration; it’s botany.
I left with a teeming curiosity about how they were going to renovate this exhibit. Little tiny Swiffers? It seemed impossible. All the flowers would end up in smithereens. Who even knows how to take on the stunning job of cleaning up 4,300 gorgeous, delicate glass flowers?
The exhibit reopened in May 2016, after nine months of restoration. Now, with this short video, we get to see exactly how this breathtaking collection, the Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants, has been restored.
These flowers were made in a time when so much was still made by hand. It is surely one of the most epic craft projects in history. Also: the restoration is housekeeping at a grand scale.