Written by Paolo Viscardi, Curator of Zoology, National Museum of Ireland – Natural History
I’m not sure why, but people really seem to love Blaschka models.
They are the subject of a surprisingly large number of enquiries at the National Museum of Ireland — Natural History (AKA the Dead Zoo), where I look after the zoology collections.
If you’ve not heard of the Blaschkas, they were a father and son company of lampworkers based in Dresden, who supplied museums and universities around the world with glass models for teaching and display. Between 1864 and 1890 they made mail-order models of invertebrates (alongside glass eyes and medical equipment), then from 1890 until 1936 they worked exclusively for Harvard University on the Ware collection of glass flowers.
At the Dead Zoo we have a particularly large and comprehensive collection of the invertebrates, with around 590 models acquired in lots between 1874 and 1888. I say ‘around’, because many of the models are made up of multiple parts, with different developmental stages, enlargements and details that are classed as elements of the same model.