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May-June 2016

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Museum Notes

NEW CURATOR

Kelsey McNamara is the new curator at the New Mexico Bureau of Geology Mineral Museum, in Socorro, New Mexico. She received her bachelor's degree in geology from Ohio University and her master's in Earth sciences from Montana State University before moving to the Land of Enchantment. Prior to becoming the curator, McNamara was a PhD candidate at the University of New Mexico, a geology field camp instructor, and a freelance geologist. She has experience in energy and mineral resources, including multiple internships with major petroleum companies and a gold exploration project in Nevada.

Kelsey McNamara, new curator at the New Mexico Bureau of Geology Museum in Socorro.

Kelsey McNamara, new curator at the New Mexico Bureau of Geology Museum in Socorro.

MINERAL OF THE YEAR

More than one hundred new mineral species are discovered every year, many of which possess unique chemical compositions, interesting and complex structures, beautiful crystals, or form under unusual conditions. To celebrate such species, the International Mineralogical Association (IMA) has developed an annual award—Mineral of the Year—to recognize the most interesting mineral published in the previous year.

The first year the award was given was 2015. The Mineral of the Year for 2014 was ophirite, Ca2Mg4[Zn2Mn23+(H2O)2(Fe3+W9O34)2]·46H2O, a new mineral species from the Ophir Hill Consolidated mine, Ophir district, Oquirrh Mountains, Tooele County, Utah, and it was described by Anthony R. Kampf, of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, and coauthors John M. Hughes, Barbara P. Nash, Stephen E. Wright, George R. Rossman, and Joe Marty. The mineral was discovered by Marty. Ophirite forms beautiful orange-brown, tablet-shaped crystals to 1 mm in length and is the first known mineral to contain a lacunary defect derivative of the Keggin anion (i.e., a heteropolyanion missing some of its octahedral segments). Phases with the Keggin anion are important in solid-state chemistry as a catalyst.

For those who would like to read the 2014 article describing ophirite, it was published in the American Mineralogist, volume 99, number 5—6, pages 1045—1046.

Anthony R. Kampf, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, lead author of the article describing ophirite, named the most interesting new mineral species published in 2014. Ophirite, field of view 0.7 mm, from the Ophir Hill Consolidated mine, Ophir district, Oquirrh Mountains, Tooele County, Utah.

(left) Anthony R. Kampf, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, lead author of the article describing ophirite, named the most interesting new mineral species published in 2014. (right) Ophirite, field of view 0.7 mm, from the Ophir Hill Consolidated mine, Ophir district, Oquirrh Mountains, Tooele County, Utah.

ENCASED IN AMBER

Now at the Houston Museum of Natural Science is the exhibition Amber Secrets, Feathers from the Age of Dinosaurs, which features more than one hundred exquisite amber specimens dating as far back as 99 million years ago. Plants, fungi, vertebrates, and invertebrates such as insects, spiders, scorpions, snails, millipedes, and centipedes are represented. Highlights include feathers and lizards encapsulated in amber. Each polished translucent gem provides a window to the time of the dinosaurs. Details normally not preserved in fossils are plainly visible in the ancient resin. The exhibition opened in February and continues until September of this year.

CROWN JEWELS

In early January of this year the MINES ParisTech Mineralogy Museum (Paris School of Mines) unveiled three new permanent exhibit cases dedicated to its own French Crown Jewels. Showcased are suites of pink topazes and amethysts from the ornaments of the Empress Marie-Louise, as well as emeralds from the Imperial Crown of Napoleon III. These gems were given to the Imperial School of Mines (as it was then known) back in 1887, when the French Crown Jewels were sold at auction by the French government. They were mined at the beginning of the nineteenth century (or earlier) from the most prestigious gem deposits: emeralds from Muzo in Colombia, amethysts from the Ural Mountains in Siberia, and pink topazes (also called “Brazilian Rubies”) from Minas Gerais in Brazil.

The new exhibit of the French Crown Jewels in the collection of the Mineralogy Museum MINES ParisTech.

The new exhibit of the French Crown Jewels in the collection of the Mineralogy Museum MINES ParisTech.

A small selection of amethysts from the former amethyst ornament of the Empress Marie-Louise, part of the French Crown Jewels. Some of the pink topazes, also part of the French Crown Jewels.

(left) A small selection of amethysts from the former amethyst ornament of the Empress Marie-Louise, part of the French Crown Jewels. (right) Some of the pink topazes, also part of the French Crown Jewels.

An emerald necklace from the French Crown Jewels exhibit.

An emerald necklace from the French Crown Jewels exhibit.

MUSEUM EXPANSION

At a cost of $56.5 million, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science opened a new five-level, 126,000-square-foot wing in February that is home to the Morgridge Family Exploration Center and the Rocky Mountain Science Collections Center. The latter totals 63,000 square feet in two underground levels devoted to providing consolidated housing in state-of-the-art conditions for nearly 1.5 million artifacts and specimens for the first time in the museum's 113-year history, ensuring they are preserved for the public for generations to come.

 

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