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May-June 2011

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Museum Notes

COLOSSAL EXHIBITION

On 16 April the American Museum of Natural History, in New York City, unveiled The World's Largest Dinosaurs, an innovative exhibition about the super-sized sauropods, the largest dinosaurs to walk the earth. These long-necked and long-tailed animals, which ranged in size from 15 to 150 feet long, thrived for 140 million years. Innovative interactive exhibits—including the centerpiece, a life-sized, detailed model of a 60-foot Mamenchisaurus—take visitors inside these giants' bodies, shedding light on how heart rate, respiration, metabolism, and reproduction are linked to size.

The exhibition, which continues until 2 January 2012, also includes specimens from the museum's world-renowned fossil collection. An excavation at the end of the display shows how dinosaurs are discovered in the field through a replicated dig site.

Caption: Mamenchiasaurus at the American Museum of Natural History.

Caption: Mamenchiasaurus at the American Museum of Natural History.

SHAFTS UNCOVERED

As described in the November/December 2010 Museum Notes column (pages 567–568), the A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum, on the campus of Michigan Technological University, in Houghton, Michigan, is getting a new home. Construction began in October 2010 and is scheduled for completion in May of this year. For a peek at what it will look like, see the architect's rendition shown here.

Unexpectedly, in early November, the construction contractor uncovered an old mine shaft at the site. A visit to the university's Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections quickly established that indeed the Mabbs vein, named after brothers John and Austin Mabbs, formerly occupied the area, and the workers had exposed the main F shaft and an adjacent ventilation shaft of the workings.

Although the top of the F shaft was well timbered, it was not plugged but simply covered with some old pipes and rocks. Because footers for the other walls had already been poured, moving the new building location was not an option. The F shaft was located beneath the edge of the entrance, and the footer for one of three main support columns for the steel roofing system was partially over the ventilation shaft. Quickly a solution was formulated. A permanent cap consisting of steel reinforcing and a roughly 4-foot-thick concrete cap (approximately 680 tons of concrete) was placed over the openings. Despite the discovery, construction was not delayed.

The Mabbs vein was worked from 1864 through 1867 by the Isle Royale Mining Company, during which time a slab of native copper weighing about a ton was extracted. In 1875 mining resumed for a short interval after which it ceased. Additional details will be in an upcoming article in Rocks & Minerals, and an exhibit highlighting this ironic finding is planned when the museum reopens in its new home.

Caption: An architect's drawing of the new home of the A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum, 1404 Sharon Avenue, on the campus of Michigan Technological University, in Houghton.

Caption: An architect's drawing of the new home of the A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum, 1404 Sharon Avenue, on the campus of Michigan Technological University, in Houghton.

COLOR SPONSORS for the Museum Notes column for 2011 are John and Maryanne Fender of Fender Natural Resources, Richardson, Texas.

ONGOING MAKEOVER

A new dinosaur exhibit at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County will be opening in July as part of the museum's ongoing $135 million makeover, scheduled for completion in 2013. The large-scale permanent dinosaur exhibition will be presented in two light-filled galleries, doubling the size of the current dinosaur displays. It will rival the world's leading dinosaur halls for the sheer volume of individual fossils displayed, the size and uniqueness of the major mounts (including the world's only Tyrannosaurus rex growth series), and the transparent treatment of the science that surrounds these creatures—not as static, definitive knowledge but as a vibrant, ongoing investigation of mysteries solved and still unsolved.

Caption: A rendering of the Tyrannosaurus rex area in the new dinosaur area opening in July at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

Caption: A rendering of the Tyrannosaurus rex area in the new dinosaur area opening in July at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

MINERALS & INSECTS, AGAIN

The Flying Jewels exhibition that so fascinated visitors at the 2009 and 2010 Munich shows, and which was featured in our July/August 2010 issue, has alighted at the Castle Freudenstein Terra Mineralia Museum in Freiberg, Germany, and will be there through the end of July. Featured in this large special collection of “jewels” is the pairing of like-patterned, -textured, and -colored insects and minerals displayed side by side, approximately 150 in all. They are from the collection of Robert Jakob and Markus Klein, who began assembling the striking combos in 1997.

Readers will recall that this relatively new museum was written up in our March/April 2009 issue.

Caption: Insects and minerals, seemingly dissimilar, have much in common, as displayed in the Flying Jewels exhibition, and as shown here. The agate is from the Korsakow Mountains, Bohemia, and the Marpesia coresia from Equador.

Caption: Insects and minerals, seemingly dissimilar, have much in common, as displayed in the Flying Jewels exhibition, and as shown here. The agate is from the Korsakow Mountains, Bohemia, and the Marpesia coresia from Equador.

SIMPLY EXQUISITE!

There is no other way to describe the beautiful diamond now on temporary display, for the next couple of months, at the Natural History Museum, on Cromwell Road, London. Named the Cora Sun-Drop, at 110.3-carats, it is the world's largest-known vivid yellow, pear-shaped diamond. This dazzling beauty is on loan from leading diamond manufacturer Cora International, who crafted the original rough diamond after it was mined in Africa.

Caption: A closer look at this unique 110.3-carat diamond.

Caption: A closer look at this unique 110.3-carat diamond.

Caption: Model Jerry Hall admires the Cora Sun-Drop Diamond, now on display in The Vault gallery of the Natural History Museum in London.

Caption: Model Jerry Hall admires the Cora Sun-Drop Diamond, now on display in The Vault gallery of the Natural History Museum in London.

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