The big picture

Glass treasures

images: Guido Mocafico

These ornate and lifelike glass models of sea creatures are 140 years old and were once used as teaching aids. They were created by Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka, father and son. The University Museum (UMU) has a unique collection of these ‘Blaschka models’. They were acquired by the university in 1882 following Professor Hubrecht’s appointment as professor of zoology. Hubrecht wanted to use the models as teaching aids so his students could get a sense of life underwater.

Marine invertebrates like jellyfish and snails contain a lot o f water and are difficult t o store as specimens; they tend to quickly lose their form and natural colour when suspended in formaldehyde. Glass offers a perfect medium to portray these translucent and shimmering sea dwellers. The models were made to order for museums and educational institutions in several countries, and are all unique.

The Utrecht University Museum will be restoring and exhibiting this extraordinary collection in its new Blaschka Cabinet, which will be fully customised to accommodate the models. Each model will be showcased like a valuable item of jewellery, offering visitors the chance to admire their beauty from close up and marvel at the wonders of the underwater world, just like Hubrecht’s students once did.

Help out

Een Blaschkamodel van glas
images: Guido Mocafico

The University Museum (UMU) is set to restore these Blaschka models, but needs the financial support of third parties to do so. Why not help out? Donate via this link or visit the website of UMU for more information. You can adopt your own Blaschka starting at €500. For details, email