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November-December 2012

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The A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum—Its History and Collections by George W. Robinson and Robert Rann

The A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum—Its History and Collections by George W. Robinson and Robert Rann. A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum, Michigan Technological University, Houghton, MI. Order from (Seaman Gift Shop). 95 pages; 2012; $32 plus $5 shipping and handling (softbound plus one CD).

This attractive though short book carefully documents the history and holdings of one of America's finest mineral museums. This well-curated collection, tucked away in the Copper Country of Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula, is both a traditional and an integral part of Michigan Technological University, better known to older enthusiasts as the Michigan School of Mines. The collection is so well known that it has become a destination point for many visitors to this secluded though spectacular region. Few museums of this caliber are focused so carefully on a particular mining district or area yet still maintain a collection base of uniformly high quality and geographic breadth. That said, the book presents the collection to the reader in an understandable, concise manner replete with good historical illustrations as well as many color photographs of what are considered to be the museum's best specimens.

The book begins with a foreward by Wendell E. Wilson, publisher and editor-in-chief of the Mineralogical Record. There follows four chapters, an appendix, a listing of works consulted, acknowledgments, and a final brief note about the authors. Chapter 1, titled “About The Museum,” gives a brief overview of the museum's history, philosophy, and current facility. Chapter 2 traces the history of “Collecting Minerals in the Keweenaw” including a good description of the Michigan mineral exhibit at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition and how it was so intimately linked to the peninsula's dominant copper industry. This interesting chapter closes with an insightful discussion of mineral prices and the escalation of specimen values.

Chapter 3 is perhaps the most interesting in the book. It is a chronological survey of the chain of curators beginning with A. E. Seaman and ending with the present curator and our coauthor, George W. Robinson. Each curator is discussed briefly in terms of background and general accomplishments. This flows nicely into a descriptive listing of the collections he or she was responsible for acquiring for the museum. When considered collectively, the number and significance of these collections are almost overwhelming. Chapter 4, called simply “Color Plates,” represents the bulk of the book, as it should. The chapter, which features fifty specimens, is divided into four sections. The first three sections present magnificent specimens from each of the museum's three most important collections—those of John T. Reeder, L. L. Hubbard, and Donald C. Gabriel. The fourth section of this chapter contains a selection of additional specimens chosen to show the depth and diversity of the museum's holdings. Data supplied with each specimen's photograph include its species name and locality followed by a description of any special features, dimensions, chemical formula, crystal system, and donor.

For those thirsting for more photographic insights into the museum's collections, the accompanying CD contains an additional 250 specimen photographs. The disc is searchable by mineral name, state within the United States, or country. Fundamental data for each specimen are given with the photograph. All photos are by either George Robinson, Jeff Scovil, or John Jaszczak.

This relatively inexpensive book makes a good addition to any collector's library. It has a slick, expensive feel, the color rendition is good, and there are very few editorial issues. It is highly recommended for those who need to refresh their memories of great minerals in a faraway place, or who simply want to see what they have heard about and yet have not had the opportunity to visit.

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