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May-June 2012

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Museum Notes


The retirement of Anthony “Tony” Kampf as curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History was announced in this column in the July/August 2011 issue and that of Carl Francis from the Harvard Mineralogical Museum in the March/April 2012 issue. Celebrations honoring both gentlemen were in full swing at the recent Tucson Show, beginning with a tribute by Peter Megaw at the Sunday evening social and program at the Westward Look's Fine Mineral Show, continuing with a dinner co-organized by Jeffrey Post and Cara Santelli for museum colleagues, and capping with a party cohosted by Jim and Gail Spann and Jordi Fabre ( for approximately two hundred well-wishers.

Caption: Carl Francis (left) and Tony Kampf, all smiles at the Spann/Fabre party in their honor in Tucson.


The Bower Museum, in Santa Ana, California, has not one, but two exhibitions focusing exclusively on gold. California Gold opened in February and runs through 30 September; Sacred Gold: Pre-Hispanic Art of Colombia opened in March and runs through 1 July—perfect timing for an early summer vacation visit.

California Gold features stunningly beautiful specimens of native Californian gold brought to life by gold rush memorabilia. Included is the Mojave Nugget, the largest known gold nugget ever found in California, and recovered gold from the SS Central America, sometimes called the “Ship of Gold.” The ship sank in 1857, along with four hundred passengers and crew and 30,000 pounds of gold, contributing to the Panic of 1857. The display also features gold specimens from the collection of Wayne and Dona Leicht of Laguna Beach, California.

Caption: Two specimens on display in the California Gold exhibit at the Bowers Museum. Left: Gold (10.2 cm high), from the Eagle's Nest mine, Placer County. Above: Gold specimen (10 cm wide) known as the “Corsage,” with a bit of embedded tree root and a quartz crystal, from the Red Ledge mine, Nevada County. Both specimens are in the collection of Wayne and Dona Leicht.

Sacred Gold delights with some of the world's finest pre-Hispanic gold, more than two hundred exquisite gold masterpieces on loan from the renowned Gold Museum and the Bank of the Republic in Bogota, Colombia. These are some of the national treasures of Colombia that fueled the myth of the lost city of gold, El Dorado, when discovered by Spanish conquistadors in the sixteenth century. Also on exhibit is an ornately carved emerald and gold rosary recovered from the sunken Spanish warship the Nuestra Senora di Atocha. The “Atocha Cross,” considered one of the world's most important ecclesiastical artifacts, was in its underwater tomb for more than 350 years.


The Gemological Institute of America's (GIA) latest museum exhibit, Tablet to Tablet: Treasured Pages from Past to Present, showcases more than 26,000 pages from rare books on gems, minerals, and natural science dating back to the fifteenth century. The display will continue through July at the museum, which is located in Carlsbad, California.

The exhibit encompasses the development of gemology, crystallography, jewelry manufacturing, valuation of gemstones and precious metals, diamond mining, and more. Among the fifteen cases of books and distinctive objects, is the documentation of one family's wealth: the Romanov jewels and regalia.

The oldest book on view is a 1496 edition of Pliny's Natural History, which has content dating back to AD 77. One-of-a-kind works include original renderings of jewelers' designs and a handwritten book from 1840 about minerals from Great Britain illustrated with intricate hand-colored plates.

Caption: Overview of a portion of the GIA's Tablet to Tablet exhibit, which features rare books, minerals, crystals, and period artifacts from throughout the history of mining and gemology.


In 2011, the Barcelona Museum of Natural History moved to a new location. The classic old building in the Parc de la Ciutadella in Barcelona is still there, but the collections have been moved to the Museu Blau (Blue Museum). Here they are presented with a modern flair, integrating geology, paleontology, mineralogy, petrology, and biology in a common exhibition called Life Planet.

The former museum facility now houses the duplicate collections, the scientific library, and scientific and curatorial activities and is no longer open to the public.


Museum Victoria, in Melbourne, Australia, has added a new acquisition to its Dynamic Earth display. It's a world-class powellite with stilbite, apophyllite-(KF), and scolecite from Nasik, Maharashtra, India. The large specimen joins many other examples of fine minerals from the Deccan Traps on exhibit.

Caption: The powellite with stilbite, apophyllite-(KF), and scolecite from Nasik, Maharashtra, India, now on display at Museum Victoria. The specimen is a complete large cavity, 26 × 16 × 11 cm, and contains six lustrous, pale orange-brown powellite crystals to 6 cm across.


Under construction is the Perot Museum of Nature & Science, in Dallas, Texas. Completion of the facility is expected by this summer, and exhibit installation has begun. As background, groundbreaking ceremonies for the museum were held on 18 November 2009. Two years later, in November 2011, came the announcement that the museum had surpassed its $185 million fundraising goal.

COLOR SPONSORS for the Museum Notes column for 2012 are John and Maryanne Fender of Fender Natural Resources, Richardson, Texas.

Rocks & Minerals welcomes museum news items and photographs for this column. Correspondence should be sent to

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