By Carol Tannenhauser
The museum known for its towering dinosaurs now has a rock that would even impress T-Rex.
Fourth graders from PS 87 attested to that when they witnessed the unveiling yesterday of a truly gasp-inducing recent acquisition of the Museum of Natural History. Discovered in Uruguay, standing 12 feet tall and weighing more than 9,000 pounds, it is one of the largest amethyst geodes in the world.
“It’s really awesome…It’s amazing…It’s so beautiful,” the kids affirmed. One girl added, “I wonder how they, like, found it and cut it open?”
That kind of curiosity is what the museum is hoping to inspire and satisfy as it undertakes a complete redesign and update of its Halls of Gems and Minerals, set to begin on October 26 (so, if you want to see the old halls one last time, you better go now).
You can also see the geode, which will remain in the Museum’s Grand Gallery through the 2017 holiday season. It will reappear in 2019 as one of the centerpieces of the new Allison and Roberto Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals, named for the project’s lead supporters. Ralph Applebaum Associates will be the designer.
“How many of us enjoyed the great pleasure and fascination of collecting rocks as a child?” asked Ellen V. Futter, president of the Museum. “I know I did.”
Futter now presides over one of the greatest “rock collections” of all time.
“The American Museum of Natural History is known for having one of the most spectacular and comprehensive collections of gems and minerals in the world,” she said. “[The redesign] will highlight these specimens in new exhibits illuminating the latest scientific thinking and revealing the beauty of objects from cultures around the globe.”
Curator of Physical Sciences George E. Harlow describes some of the specimens that will be displayed in the new Halls of Gems and Minerals.
Elements currently planned for the Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals, according to a press release from the Museum, include:
- A “Crystal Garden” main exhibition area withsignature large-scale specimens collected from around the world, including two towering amethyst geodes from Uruguay, a 12-foot-tall geode and a 9-foot-tall geode. Mineral formation zones highlighting a variety of processes and environments that shape mineral formation will frame these iconic specimens
- A gem gallery with a case containing the Museum’s most precious gems, including the 563-carat Star of India (the world’s largest and most famous blue star sapphire) and the 632-carat Patricia Emerald (a rare example of a large, gem-quality emerald to be preserved uncut)
- A systematics display wall showing the classification of minerals and highlighting the breadth of the Museum’s collection
- A case dedicated to the minerals of New York City, including the “subway garnet”—a 9-pound almandine garnet unearthed during a sewer dig on 35th Streetin 1885
- Large-scale media projections and interactive displays with time-lapse imagery, colorful animations, and dramatic shifts in scale to introduce key ideas about mineral and gem properties
- A dedicated space for temporary exhibitions with the potential to highlight humanity’s fascination with particular minerals and gems as well as the fact that the same atmospheric conditions made possible both the diversity of minerals and the diversity of life
- A fluorescence and phosphorescence gallery featuring a massive panel of fluorescent rock from the Sterling Hill Mining Museum in Ogdensburg, New Jersey, that glows in shades of orange and green under ultraviolet light
The Halls of Gems and Minerals is the second major renovation project announced by the Museum in as many weeks. The Northwest Coast Hall is also being redone, Futter said, “as part of the physical and programmatic enhancements we are making as we look toward our milestone 150th anniversary in 2019.”
Photos by Carol Tannenhauser.