The Earth and Planetary Sciences (EPS) Teaching Collection consists of over 30,000 specimens of rocks, minerals, and fossils as well as hundreds of maps, posters, thin sections, and structural models that serve to educate Harvard University students in the fundamentals of geology. Presently the collections support the learning of hundreds of new students every year. Through their laboratory based Earth & Planetary Sciences and General Education classes, present Harvard University professors rely heavily on the collections for their teaching labs. On any given day, one traveling by the EPS teaching laboratories might see students beholding the wonders of mineral fluorescence, molding brightly colored Play-doe to demonstrate metamorphic folding, or perhaps watching the dye progress through a groundwater flow simulation tank.
The EPS Teaching Collection serves both as the foundation for instructing future geologists as well as a primary source for public outreach and education. Historically, geological teaching collections have existed at Harvard for over a century. However, the teaching collections as they presently exist were first assembled by Professor Cornelius Hurlbut in 1963, the same year the Harvard Science Center was opened. The first professors to put the collection to use in the Science Center teaching labs were Jim Thompson and Charlie Burnham. Before 1963, there were many separate geological teaching collections. These earlier teaching collections that provided the foundation of what now constitutes the modern teaching collection were assembled and used by such Harvard luminaries as Louis Agassiz, Esper Larson, Charles Palache, and Clifford Frondel. In more recent years, many educational samples have been added to the collection by the Mineralogical and Geological Museum. The EPS Teaching Collection continues to play an important role today, whether assisting with student or public education and continued research at Harvard.