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September-October 2011

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Hidden Russian Treasures: Mineral Carvings at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science

The hidden treasures are the “Konovalenkos,” a suite of twenty mineral and gem carvings produced by the late Russian expatriate Vasily Konovalenko (1929–1989) and now on display at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, sandwiched between the rhea and macaw exhibits on the third (top) floor. Whether you are a mineral hugger, a fossil lugger, or an artist, these sculptures will impress. From whimsical smiles to drunken blokes, and from voluptuous maidens to tattered fellows, every character strikes its own pose. In each the emotions abound—from good times in bubbly hot springs to bitter cold in gulag slavery. These masterpieces have been at the museum since 1984 through the courtesy of a museum patron. They constitute the largest collection of Konovalenko gem carvings outside of Moscow—there are fewer than fifty worldwide—and the only such public display in the Americas.

Dr. James W. Hagadornis a curator of earth sciencesand Dr. Stephen E. Nash is a curator of archaeology at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

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