By Arthur Stampleman
I have never been interested in minerals, nor did I have any notion that people actually collected them. How wrong I was. I learned this when viewing a new exhibit at the Bruce Museum – “Treasures of the Earth: Mineral Masterpieces from the Robert R. Wiener Collection”.
“Treasures of the Earth” takes visitors on a tour of the beauty, wonder, and science of minerals. Approximately 100 eye-catching specimens from the exceptional Robert R. Wiener Collection are on display. Wiener, Chairman of Maxx Properties, has built this comprehensive collection over the past four decades. Truly global in span, it includes minerals from Madagascar, China, Peru, Australia, the U.S., and beyond.
The most striking feature of the exhibit for this neophyte is the range of unusual crystal forms to be seen in the minerals on display. The visible shape of a crystal is a physical property that can be used to help identify each mineral. Minerals also have brilliant colors and dazzling lusters. There are also rare combinations of multiple minerals growing together, and some enormous specimens.
Visitors will learn how minerals gain their key properties — color, crystal shape, luster, and size — and how they play a critical role in everything from nutrition to smart phone assembly. Minerals are a product of both their fundamental structure at the atomic level and their history of growth. Intrinsic composition sets the blueprint, but variations in chemical impurities, heat, pressure, and the space in which a crystal forms all influence the final product.
Garnets, for example, form in metamorphic rocks as pressure causes minerals to become reconfigured. They are dodecahedrons (12-sided) and range from microscopic to the bowling ball-sized “Subway Garnet” found in New York City in 1885 during excavation of a tunnel.
I have learned that many have found joy in collecting minerals, and for those who truly love the marvels of the mineral world the most appealing aspect is the uniqueness of each piece. Mr. Wiener’s own introduction to the world of minerals came on a childhood visit to the Museum of Natural History with his grandmother.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a series of talks, films, and programs for audiences of all ages. A panel discussion, “From the Earth to Your Fingertips,” is scheduled for December 5, 6:30-8. On December 7, 2-4:30, students in grades K-5 are invited to discover, learn, and create at “Afternoon at the Bruce: Mineral Masterpieces.” To register, go to www.brucemuseum.org.
“Treasures of the Earth” is on view until April 1.The Bruce is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 to 5. For more information, call 203-869-0376.
A splendid example of a large, well-formed garnet collected in Fauske, Norway.
From the Robert R. Wiener Collection
Photos by Paul Mutino