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January-February 2009

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Museum Notes

The Society of Mineral Museum Professionals (SMMP) will hold its annual meeting and a program for the public in conjunction with the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show. The group will also put together a display following the show’s theme of Mineral Oddities.

Although the new Tellus Northwest Georgia Science Museum, in Cartersville, Georgia, wasn’t quite ready to open its doors to the public this past summer, it hosted a grand dinner and museum preview on the Friday night of the Southeast Gem, Mineral, and Fossil Show for special guests and show participants. The show was held 15–17 August at the adjacent Holiday Inn. The museum also hosted a Friends of Mineralogy Symposium that same weekend. Plans call for a grand opening of the 120,000-square-foot facility on 12 January.

A major new display was installed this past fall in the Hall of Gems and Minerals at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. Titled Collections, the display stresses the importance of donated collections to the growth of the museum’s collections. A remarkable 97 percent of the 150,000 specimens in the museum’s Mineral Sciences collections have been acquired through donations. The collections of several important donors are highlighted in the display, which includes more than 100 spectacular specimens.

Dr. Robert T. Downs, an associate professor of mineralogy and crystallography in the geosciences department at the University of Arizona, has been named curator of the University of Arizona Mineral Museum, in Tucson. The announcement was made this past August.

Downs has had museum experience at the University of British Columbia, the Canadian Museum of Nature, and Virginia Technological and State University. He came to the University of Arizona in 1996 as an assistant professor. Since that time, he has brought in more than $8.5 million in research funding. He is the director of the RRUFF project, the largest study ever on characterizing minerals using chemistry, X-ray diffraction, and Raman spectroscopy. He has been the crystallographic editor for the American Mineralogist, The Canadian Mineralogist, and the European Journal of Mineralogy. In addition, he has served on the council of the Mineralogical Society of America and is a member of the executive board of the International Mineralogical Association. He is currently a co-investigator on the Mars 2009 Rover mission.

As part of an ongoing program to renovate its galleries, the A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum at Michigan Technological University, in Houghton, recently installed several new exhibits. Among them is a 7-foot-long freestanding case featuring “Copper Country” specimens, including superb examples of crystallized native copper, silver, copper-included calcite, and datolite, as well as some of the district’s lesser-known species that were mined more than a century ago and preserved by local collectors of the day. Together, they comprise a suite of unparalleled specimens from Michigan’s famous Keweenaw Peninsula.

New, too, is a gallery titled The Beauty of Minerals, displaying some of the museum’s larger, more colorful and sculpturesque specimens against a backdrop of enlarged photographs. Featured are everything from banded agates to specimens of particular significance to collectors. Also included among ten such cases are three that focus on gemstones. Highlights here include a case devoted to birthstones and another to collectors’ gems, which features a 1,017-carat calcite from New York State as well as a suite of faceted worldwide fluorites, cut by Art Grant and from the Harold Dibble collection.
Rocks & Minerals welcomes museum news items and related photographs for this column. Correspondence should be directed to the managing editor, 5341 Thrasher Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45247;

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