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September-October 2011

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Museum Notes

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


The Society of Mineral Museum Professionals (SMMP) will hold its fall meeting at the Merchandise Mart during the Denver Show on Friday, 16 September. The board will meet at 1:30 P.M. followed by the membership meeting at 2:00. The group will also provide an exhibit at the show highlighting a chosen theme.


Marvel at more than 150 jeweled objects belonging to the collections of the Imperial Russian Court from the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and on loan to the Houston Museum of Natural Science—or not. As you read this, the fabulous exhibit Treasures from the Hermitage: Russia's Crown Jewels may or may not be on exhibit in Houston due to a freeze Russia put on art loans to major American institutions. It was scheduled to open on 20 May, but as of this writing (in mid-June), the exhibit faces a delay and an uncertain future.

Many of the objects in the exhibition have never before left Russia. The Houston Museum of Natural Science is the only venue to display these exquisite pieces before they return to St. Petersburg. To check the current status of the exhibit, see the Houston Museum's website,

Caption: Russian masterworks. Top: Bouquet of gemstone flowers (I. Pauzie, 1740s), part of the Treasures from the Hermitage, currently at (or coming soon to) the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Above left: Fabergé Miniatures of the Imperial Coronation Regalia (Carl Fabergé Company, 1900), St. Petersburg. Above right: Walking stick with monogram (ca. 1780), St. Petersburg.


In late April of this year Rudy Tschernich retired from his position as curator of the Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals, in Hillsboro, Oregon. His many contributions to the advancement of mineralogy were recognized at a reception hosted by the museum at the time of his departure. Tschernich was named the curator there in 2003.

Caption: Right: Rudy Tschernich, who retired from the Rice Museum.


This past May a splashy new mineral display debuted at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. The display, the first phase of a renovation of the venerable Coors Hall of Gems and Minerals, is notable because it is laden with high-value specimens and is completely touchable. Within the first two weeks of its unveiling, more than ten thousand visitors had patted, hugged, and touched the specimens—pyrite, jade, calcite, quartz, lapis, and hematite. Phase two of the hall's renovation will feature interactive activities and displays that are sure to amaze.

Caption: The Denver Museum's entryway display of touchable colorful minerals.


The James Madison University Mineral Museum, in Harrisonburg, Virginia, this past May received a collection of approximately three hundred mineral specimens from Matt Maneotis of Denver. The specimens are from worldwide localities, with a focus on those from Colorado. Many are of display quality; others are for classroom use. This is the second collection that Maneotis has assembled and donated; the first, a collection of Colorado secondary copper minerals, went to the Colorado School of Mines Geology Museum, in Golden.

Caption: Ross Lillie, whose fluorite collection was on special exhibit at the Lizzadro Museum.


Ross Lillie's superb private collection of Southern Illinois fluorite was on display at the Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art, in Elmhurst, Illinois, from 1 March through 5 June of this year. The collection contains more than twenty-three hundred specimens from the fluorspar mining district, only a portion of which were on display.

Caption: Overview of the display hall at the James Madison University Mineral Museum. 

Lillie, owner of North Star Minerals, based in Bloomfield, Michigan, graduated from Michigan Technological University with a bachelor's degree in geology in 1979 and was employed as an exploration geologist in the Illinois fluorspar district from 1979 to 1984. His employment provided him with direct access to underground collecting and to newly mined minerals. Even after leaving the area he continued to buy regularly from miners, shift bosses, and anyone else in the county who had specimens for sale. He has been a full-time mineral dealer since 1984.

Caption: One of the Ross Lillie specimens on display: Galena and fluorite, 21.3 cm high, Denton mine, Hardin County, Illinois.

Caption: Another Ross Lillie specimen on display: Fluorite and barite, 14.1 cm across, Minerva No. 1 mine, Hardin County, Illinois.

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