Growing up in Pittsburgh, we were very lucky to have the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in our back yard. Their gem and mineral collection is one of the top in the world, so we were a bit spoiled in our formative years. However, right before our recent trip to Boston, we were clued in to the fact that Harvard University’s Museum of Natural History has a pretty stellar permanent mineral collection. How could we pass that up? So off to Cambridge we went, and after an outstanding breakfast at Henrietta’s Table (a farm to table restaurant in the Charles Hotel-highly recommended), we headed over to the Harvard mineral collection to see what kinds of treasures it held.
Upon arriving to the museum, we were pleased to see that we were not going to be disappointed. The colorful mineral collection was sizable and classified by chemical composition, which helps for seeing similarities in the crystals that are made up of similar elements.
The collection is pretty heavy on US minerals (particularly from the Northeastern United States), which was a treat. We’re always interested in seeing what can be collected in our home country, and we were not dissatisfied. Highlights included Goethite, one from Marquette County, Michigan
and one from California that I was calling Rainbow Goethite due to the light wash of color over the crystals.
One that I was unfamiliar with, and suitably impressed by, was a large example of Millerite from Lee County, Iowa. The large clear crystals are Calcite, the Millerite is the tiny metallic hair-like crystals growing on top of them.
Being from Pennsylvania, we are always interested to see what minerals the Keystone State has to offer. This specimen of Chalcopyrite was most impressive!
There were also some superb examples of US Fluorite, including pieces from New Hampshire
and of course Illinois
Another surprise were the Pyrite suns from Illinois. Usually I just associate Illinois with Fluorite. Not anymore!
North Carolina, known for its Emerald, Sapphire and Ruby deposits is also home to several other types of minerals. This piece of Kyanite was particularly entrancing (and gemmy!)
There were also some fine examples from the Southwestern US. It is generally known for Turquoise, but is also home to a plethora of other types of minerals. Here are some of our favorites that were on display:
Quartz var. Chalcedony
Calcite on Malachite
And last but certainly not least, a giant specimen of Amazonite from Colorado
Of course, there were plenty of other crystals from all over the world to gawk at, and when we were through eyeballing the US collection, we moved on to the worldwide wonders. There were way too many to include in one blog, so here is a choice selection:
There was also an impressive collection of Meteorites, with a good number from the US, as well as a very cool interactive display of the formation of the solar system, earth and life on the planet, with examples of the rocks at each stage of the universe’s development. One last thing that really caught our attention was a piece of a deep sea vent that was highly mineralized on the inside
It was a fantastic afternoon viewing an extraordinary collection. Definitely worth a visit if you’re in the Boston area. Part Two of the blog will cover the other points of interest we explored in Boston, including the Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants, aka “The Glass Flowers,” which were created beginning in 1886 as models for the University to study. Stay tuned!
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