The greater Boston area has more than 100 universities and colleges, so it’s no surprise that there are also a slew of great school-run museums. From world-class art collections to science centers, here are the best places to get a little higher education on your next trip to Beantown.
Harvard Museum of Natural History
One of the four Harvard Museums of Science and Culture, the Natural History museum boasts the oldest menagerie of stuffed animals in the country. See giraffes, elephants, jaguars, and puffins, plus a right whale skeleton and the world’s only mounted Kronosaurus, a 135-million year-old, 42ft-long marine reptile. Also ogle gemstones and minerals in the Earth & Planetary Sciences gallery and the beloved “glass flowers” in the Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants.
26 Oxford St., hmnh.harvard.edu
Anyone interested in STEM-based topics should check out this creative museum in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus. See inventions from MIT’s robotics lab, including Mr Tallchief, a 7ft-tall robot built for NASA and used to test space suits. Also be sure to spend time exploring “Gestural Engineering: The Sculpture of Arthur Ganson”, an exhibition where you can manipulate many of Ganson’s kinetic works.
265 Massachusetts Ave., mitmuseum.mit.edu
The Davis Museum at Wellesley College
The Davis is one of the oldest academic fine art museums in the country, with an impressive permanent collection of more than 10,000 paintings, sculptures, decorative works, and photographs dating from ancient times up until the present. The museum also champions emerging artists and regularly showcases faculty work.
106 Central St., wellesley.edu
Harvard Art Museums
Technically there are three art museums at Harvard — the Fogg, the Sackler and the Busch-Reisinger — but in 2014 the university combined them all under one Renzo Piano-designed glass ceiling. The Fogg is the oldest (it opened in 1895) and most well-known, and it counts works by Vincent van Gogh, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Alexander Calder among its collection of Western art. At the Busch-Reisinger, see German expressionism and Bauhaus designs; the Sackler, meanwhile, focuses on Asian, Islamic, and Indian art. After getting your fill of art, take a seat in the sun-filled Calderwood courtyard and enjoy a cookie from Jenny’s Café.
32 Quincy St., harvardartmuseums.org
The MassArt Art Museum
Boston’s only free contemporary art museum, located in the center of the Massachusetts College of Art and Design’s campus, opened in 2020 and prides itself on being a kunsthalle, which means it has no permanent collection. This way, it’s able to constantly change its exhibitions, better reflecting the current state of art in the world and the diversity of its student population.
621 Huntington Ave., maam.massart.edu