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March-April 2012

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Museum Notes

Mineralogy & Museums Conference

The seventh International Conference on Mineralogy and Museums (M&M7) will convene 27–29 August of this year in Dresden, Germany. In addition to the meeting, there will be both pre- and postconference trips throughout Germany with visits to several museums and stops in the field. The trip prior to the conference (23–26 August) will go through northern Germany (Hamburg, Berlin, Harz, Marburg, Jena, and ending in Dresden). The trip after the conference (30 August–2 September) will leave from Dresden and go through southern Germany (Würzburg, Ries Crater in Nödlingen, Munich, Idar-Oberstein, and Bonn). The second day of the conference includes a visit to the mineralogical exhibitions in Freiberg. For further information, see website www.MM7-Dresden-2012.de.

Dinos On Parade

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County entered its first-ever float when it joined the 123rd Rose Parade as it made its way down Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, California, on 2 January. Proving that everything old can be new again, the float's design combined the museum's history with its newest exhibit, its Dinosaur Hall. Featured were a T. rex, a long-necked Mamenchisaurus, and an immense Triceratops. The rear of the float showed the façade of the renovated Beaux Arts Building, the original component of the museum when it opened nearly one hundred years ago.

The float's content—the replica of the 1913 building and the three dinosaurs—was formed out of steel rods, sprayed with foam, mechanically engineered, and turned into a rolling, 30,000-pound display. Just prior to the parade, multiple bushes, flowers, and other plants were added.

The float was seen by a television audience of 47 million in the United States, 28 million viewers internationally, and another 700,000 cheering spectators along the parade route.

Caption: Dinosaurs in L.A.'s Backyard, a designer's conception of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County's spectacular float in the 2012 Rose Parade.

Gem Carving Exhibition

If you missed seeing the extraordinary artworks of Harold Van Pelt in the exhibition at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, California, last year, you can still catch it at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, where Gemstone Carvings: The Masterworks of Harold Van Pelt is currently drawing visitors. It will continue there through this spring.

Featured in the exhibit are exquisite pieces highlighting Van Pelt's ability as a carver of rock crystal and agate, a skill he has perfected during the past thirty-five years. Hundreds of hours have gone into each multifaceted sculpture, many of which are accented with gold and semiprecious stones. A catalogue of the pieces is available.

Three examples of the gemstone carvings by Harold Van Pelt on exhibit in Houston.

Caption: A clear rock crystal quartz vase with twisted flutes contains a window to the curved tourmaline flowers.

Caption: A Brazilian agate hand.

Caption: The original inspiration for these unique creations was a pair of silver candleholders on display in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Two exceptionally large, flawless, and “crystal clear” pieces of quartz were turned by the artist using abrasive tools on a lathe.

Retiring

Dr. Carl A. Francis retired at the end of 2011 after thirty-four years as curator at the Harvard University Mineralogical Museum, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He also taught museum studies in the Harvard Extension School for twenty years. He received his AB (geology) from Amherst College and his MS and PhD from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, in Blacksburg. His professional interests include systematic mineralogy and the geology of pegmatites. He received the Carnegie Mineralogical Award for 1992 from the Hillman Foundation of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, is a Fellow of the Mineralogical Society of America, and served as chairman of the International Mineralogical Association's Commission on Museums from 1994 to 2002.

A consulting editor of Rocks & Minerals since 1980, Francis has written numerous articles for the magazine. We are delighted to announce that he has consented to step up his involvement during his retirement to become one of the three executive editors, along with Dr. John Rakovan and Dr. Robert B. Cook.

Caption: Dr. Carl A. Francis, now retired from the Harvard Mineralogical Museum.

Renovated

After two years of planning and six months of renovating, the new permanent exhibit hall in the lower level of the Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art, in Elmhurst, Illinois, is now open. Called The Rock & Mineral Experience, the multipurpose space serves as the museum's lecture hall and classroom area and features twenty-six new exhibits, including those on worldwide agates, jasper, lapidary materials, and outstanding mineral specimens. A 1-ton tree stump of polished petrified wood from Arizona serves as an inviting introduction to the hall. Interactive displays and videos enhance the learning experience.

Caption: One of the exhibits unveiled in the Lizzadro Museum's renovated area: A selection of pyritized fossils from Bundenbach, Germany, along with a commissioned painting of a 400-million-year-old Devonian seafloor.

New Curator

In January of this year Lara O'Dwyer-Brown assumed the duties of curator at the Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals, in Hillsboro, Oregon. She received her BS in natural sciences (geology) at the University of Dublin, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland, in 2004, and her PhD in geology at the University of California–Davis in 2011.

Caption: Lara O'Dwyer-Brown, now at the Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals.

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