4,747 Models, 174 Collections, 25 Countries, and Counting

When we began researching Blaschka collections around the world for the Fragile Legacy: The Marine Invertebrate Glass Models of Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka exhibition, we had no idea how rich, interesting, and complex the list would become.

In the prefaces to catalogs published in 1878 and 1885, Leopold Blaschka listed about 40 institutions that purchased invertebrate models from him, such as the “Indian Museum in Calcutta” and “high schools and gymnasiums in Cologne, Duisburgh, Lippstadt, Bremen, Dresden, Leipzig, Worms, etc.”

Announcement of the sale of 300 Blaschka invertebrate models, “now so difficult to obtain,” by the widow of Dr. Philip B. Mason (Museums Journal, Vol 4-5, page 215, December 1904). Mrs. Mason eventually sold her husband’s models to the Glasgow Museums in 1909 for £275.

Announcement of the sale of 300 Blaschka invertebrate
models, “now so difficult to obtain,” by the widow of
Dr. Philip B. Mason (Museums Journal, Vol 4-5, page 215,
December 1904). Mrs. Mason eventually sold her husband’s
models to the Glasgow Museums in 1909 for £275.

We expanded the information from the Blaschkas’ catalogs with the list of Blaschka collections worldwide generated for the 2008 Blaschka Congress in Dublin, Ireland. The publication from this conference documented sales to customers in the United States based on the Henry A. Ward papers at the University of Rochester, as well as additional details about many current collections. Further information about original collections, especially in Europe, came from letters and order books (Notizbüchel für 1869-1870 and Geschäfts-Anmerkungen, both downloadable as PDFs) from the Blaschka archives in the Rakow Research Library. For the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Australia, newspapers and trade catalogs documented arrivals, advertisements, and sales of Blaschka models.

Thanks to renewed interest in Blaschka models during the last couple decades, additional modern collections continue to be found. Numerous institutions, such as the University of Wisconsin, the University of Vienna, and the Australian Museum, have recently rediscovered, conserved, and exhibited their collections of Blaschka invertebrate models. Other collections have been cataloged in online collections databases and published in academic journals. Our curatorial department sent emails to curators and collections managers around the world, asking them how many models they had in their museums and when and how they obtained them. The response was overwhelming.

Blaschka Invertebrate Collections by Country

Blaschka Invertebrate Collections by Country

We have identified 174 collections of Blaschka marine invertebrate models so far. Of these, 110 are original collections for which we do not have information today — either we don’t know where they are now, or they were destroyed at some time in the last 120 years. There are 64 museums, schools, and private collections that currently have Blaschka invertebrate models. We have information about the number of models in 57 of the 64 current collections.

We know of 4,747 surviving Blaschka invertebrate models. They range from a single model at the Derby Museum and Art Gallery in Derby, England, to the 570 models owned by Cornell University. The average size of a modern collection is around 90 models. If undocumented and original collections were even half this size, the Blaschkas would have manufactured more than 10,000 invertebrate models from 1863 to 1890. That means Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka probably made, on average, more than one invertebrate model each day, every day, for 27 years!

Do you have additional information about these collections, or know of any not on the map? Let us know at curatorial@cmog.org.

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