Since 1907, Harvard University has managed 3,000 acres of woodlands in western Massachusetts that serve as the field lab and research center for the University’s graduate forestry program and in the midst of this forest is the Fisher Museum, home to a series of dioramas that tell the history of the forestry itself.
Named for Professor K.T Fisher, the first director of the Harvard Forest, the museum features 23 exquisitely detailed miniature dioramas portraying a variety of scenes of New England forest land. Seven of the dioramas chronicle one area of the forest over a period of 300 years, from pre-colonial tree growth, to clearing for farm land, to abandonment by humans, and finally to the return of the wild forest. Other dioramas depict conservation and forest management scenes.
The dioramas were built in the 1930’s by Theodore Pitman and Samuel Guernsey who operated a studio in Cambridge, Massachusetts and produced numerous notable dioramas for a variety of clients, including the Boston Museum of Science and the American Museum of Natural History. Each of the trees is made up of multiple copper wire that were coiled together and literally allowed to branch off near the top of the tree.
The museum also features rotating exhibits documenting the history of the forest and current University research projects. Nature trails in the forest allow visitors to experience the living forest as depicted in the dioramas.