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May-June 2010

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Museum Notes


In February the governor of Arizona announced that in celebration of Arizona's one hundredth anniversary of statehood, in 2012, an Arizona Centennial Museum will be created in Phoenix. Plans call for transforming the historic Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum into the new state-of-the-art museum during the next two years. Exhibits will be based on the original foundation businesses that built Arizona: copper, cotton, citrus, climate (tourism), and cattle (the five Cs).


Opening in mid-May at the San Diego Natural History Museum is All That Glitters: The Splendor and Science of Gems and Minerals. The exhibition, which was created by the museum's award-winning exhibits team, focuses on a selection of spectacular mineral specimens, stunning jewelry pieces, and one-of-a-kind works of art, many on display for the first time and many found locally. The latter includes California benitoite, gold, kunzite, and morganite. Supplementing pieces from the museum's collections are specimens and objects on loan from several major U.S. museums, such as the Smithsonian Institution, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

The San Diego Natural History Museum is hosting a black-tie gala on 22 May celebrating both the exhibition's opening and the museum's 135th anniversary.


One of the world's most extraordinary gemstones, the Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond, is on display at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History through 1 August. This is the first time it has been available to the general public in more than fifty years—it was last on exhibition at the Brussels World's Fair in 1958. A diamond of rare dark blue color and weighing 31.06 carats, the Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond is in the Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals, where the renowned Hope Diamond is on permanent view. Thus, visitors can view both famous blue diamonds.

According to the Gemological Institute of America, the diamond “is the largest Flawless or Internally Flawless, Fancy Deep Blue, Natural Color we have graded to date.”


Last October saw the opening of the renovated Grainger Hall of Gems in Chicago's Field Museum. Unusual natural formations, dazzling cut gems, and incomparable jewelry settings await the visitor to the hall. Highlights include Tiffany & Co. pieces from the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, exquisite rare stones and gold objects from around the world, and never-before-shown creations from top jewelry designers.

The museum's gem exhibition has been a favorite destination since it opened in 1921. It was renovated in 1941 and again in 1985. Now completely redesigned and updated, it features more than 600 gems and 150 pieces of jewelry, enhanced by state-of-the-art fiber-optic lighting. Individual displays depict gems still embedded in matrix that are next to cut and polished stones of the same gem species, followed by gemstones set in beautiful pieces of finished jewelry. Many of the gems are notable for their size or rarity. Not all of the “jewels,” however, are inside exhibition cases—the hall is also graced by a brilliant Tiffany stained-glass window.


A 39-foot-long Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton is on exhibit through this summer at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, in Portland. This marks the worldwide museum debut of this dinosaur, which is one of the three most complete Tyrannosaurus rex skeletons in existence. It was purchased at auction by a private buyer and is on temporary loan to the museum.


Digging for dinosaurs in Colorado is a perennial favorite activity for families going on summer expeditions sponsored by New York City's American Museum of Natural History. This summer there will be two weeklong excursions. Participants will search for fossilized bones on hikes through the desert country and dig for dinosaur remains in the Mygatt-Moore quarry in western Colorado, where Apatosaurus and Allosaurus have been found. Also planned is a visit to Colorado National Monument, which includes the interactive Dinosaur Journey Museum. For further details, see


The Harvard Mineralogical Museum, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has hired two new staff members for one-year appointments to assist with critical work on the collections. Tracy Warmington, a geology major from Syracuse University, is helping with cataloguing, loans, inventory, and appraisals. Jess Dugan, a photographer from MassArt, is photographing the collection, doing about one hundred minerals per day.


Rocks & Minerals welcomes museum news items and related photographs for this column. Correspondence should be directed to the editor-in-chief, 5341 Thrasher Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45247;

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