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July-August 2015

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In Memoriam: Ulrich “Uli” Christoph Burchard (1944–2015)

Ulrich Burchard, a widely known and respected German dealer, collector, and author, passed away on 23 February 2015 at the age of seventy-one.

Uli will be remembered as an extremely reliable, fair, and loyal business partner who was very focused, and as someone who knew what he wanted. To have been Uli's friend was a great honor. What do we remember and still admire about him now that he is gone? His precise researching to find facts, his profound knowledge, and his ability to make quick decisions. What can we learn from his example? Never to talk negatively about others behind their backs—better to talk to them directly, or, even better, to remain silent. Uli's specimen labels show a man with a raised hammer, not to destroy but extremely eager to learn something new—referring to the Latin proverb mente et malleo (“with mind and hammer!”).

Born in Freising, Germany, on 12 January 1944, Uli was raised a few miles north in the safe and secluded atmosphere of his parents' stately home, an eighteenth-century historical building in the very small Bavarian village of Haindlfing. This was a perfect place to grow up, surrounded by nature, and to not only be able to assimilate historical elements but also to yearn for the unknown wide world “out there”: the cities, the continents, the planets, the universe. He could think “big” and feel “free.”

As early as 1965 he showed a blossoming interest in minerals, but he really fell in love with them during a short visit to the second Munich Mineral Show. It was held in the Räthenhaus, a small restaurant located in the Schwabing area of Munich, close to the Technical University where Uli attended classes. There were only fourteen local collectors at the show and one commercial business, Krantz from Bonn. In 1972 Uli completed his geology studies, earning a PhD through the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Munich with a dissertation about the “Genesis of the Scheelite Deposit of King Island, Tasmania.” In the following years, from 1972 to 1981, he was employed as a uranium exploration geologist in Algeria, Argentina, Canada, and Germany, but mostly in Australia.

Uli married his wife, Karin, in 1969, and during the time they resided in Australia he met and was befriended by Albert Chapman (1912–1996), the famous Australian collector, and his wife, Doreen, from Sydney. Albert Chapman was his great mentor and teacher. He accompanied and guided Uli through several Tucson mineral shows in the 1970s. Albert sharpened Uli's eyes and mind for high quality, aesthetics, and the value of mineral specimens, and Uli was an excellent scholar. Long before the Internet, Albert, Uli, and other collectors and dealers (e.g., Allen E. Arnold, among others) formed the first international mineralogical network of buyers, a group called “Octopus,” that had daily meetings at the satellite show in the Desert Inn Motel in Tucson to share the newest discoveries, prices, secrets, and rumors of the market.

In 1982 Uli and Karin decided to live more independently, so he quit his job as senior geologist, and together they established Mineral Exquisit, a company specializing in mineral specimens and rare antique instruments (mineralogical, medical, and astronomical), crystal models, and other historical collectibles. They created a series of replicas of historical goniometers of various types that are now highly sought. Their intention was to demonstrate the grand workmanship and precision of European instrument makers of the nineteenth century, and thus a nearly forgotten and neglected part of mineralogy was brought to the attention of the mineral community, starting a new collecting field.

As a result of countless visits to European natural history museums, Uli also became an author when he wrote Mineral Museums of Europe (1986) with Rainer Bode. His impetus to have articles published was primarily to let those interested take part in the research he had done. He was eager to share his knowledge and, by his enthusiasm, to inspire others. “Flying Jewels,” coauthored with Joan Kureczka, was published in Rocks & Minerals (2011), and several articles appeared in the Mineralogical Record, e.g., “The History and Apparatus of Blowpipe Analysis” (1994), which won that publication's Best Article of the Year Award, and “History of the Development of the Crystallographic Goniometer” (1998).

In recent years he supported the terra mineralia collection at the Schloss Freudenstein and also the collection at the Krügerhaus, both part of the Technical University in Freiberg, Saxony. With his expertise and in-depth knowledge of the topic, he contributed to a remarkable exhibition of wooden crystal models at the Krügerhaus. During the past two years he helped to mount several displays, together with Olaf Medenbach, of beautiful antique mineralogical instruments at the Munich Show.

Besides mineralogy with all its facets, Uli had a wide spectrum of interests that he shared with his wife, ranging from nature and its wonders to the fine and applied arts and their cultural implications. His wife Karin, son Christoph, daughter-in-law Julia, and granddaughter Valentina were important to him—making his family and home his island of retreat.

Johannes Keilmann established the Munich Mineral Show (Mineralientage München) together with Christian Weise in 1972, and with his wife, Hermi, he continued to develop it until 2008, when they transferred management to their son, Christoph.       

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