U-M Mineral Collection Gets New Home At Michigan Tech

HOUGHTON — The University of Michigan’s mineral collection has a new home at the official mineral museum for the state of Michigan — the A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum at Michigan Technological Univesrity in Houghton.

The Michigan Tech mineral museum will curate and exhibit the University of Michigan collection, which includes some of the world’s finest specimens of particular significance to Michigan.

In addition to a permanent exhibit at the museum on Michigan Tech’s Houghton campus, the specimens will be exhibited at mineral shows around the country, as well as in satellite locations. One of these satellites will be on UM’s campus, an exhibit that will be maintained by Michigan Tech’s mineral museum. This unique arrangement provides for shared ownership and responsibility to preserve the legacy of the UM mineral collection into the future.

“We couldn’t be more excited about this collaboration,” said Glenn Mroz, Michigan Tech president. “This is a perfect example of state universities working together for the benefit of all the people of Michigan.”

Added Ted Bornhorst, professor of geological and mining engineering and sciences at Michigan Tech and executive director of the museum: “Part of our core mission is to preserve minerals for future generations and educate people about the importance of minerals to society. Preserving the University of Michigan mineral collection at the official mineral museum of Michigan is a natural fit with our mission.”

The A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum already has a nationally recognized mineral collection, containing the finest collection of Michigan minerals, the largest public exhibit of minerals from the Great Lakes region, and outstanding specimens from around the world.

“The University of Michigan mineral collection will add quality, depth and breadth to our holdings,” Bornhorst said, calling the collaboration “groundbreaking.”

According to Chris Poulsen, professor and chair of the UM Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, the mineral collection is “an extraordinary asset that showcases Michigan’s mineral wealth and the history of mineral exploration within the state and by University of Michigan professors. We are very excited about the new collaboration between the University of Michigan and Michigan Tech to conserve and display the (University of) Michigan mineral collection that, in recent decades, has not been accessible to the public. We are fortunate to partner with Michigan Tech’s A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum to preserve its legacy and to ensure that the collection gets the attention that it rightfully deserves.”

Rod Ewing, Edward H. Kraus Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Geological Sciences at UM and an internationally recognized mineralogist, played a key role in setting the stage for development of the collaboration between the University of Michigan and Michigan Tech. Ewing initiated and supervised a comprehensive assessment of the collection as a prelude to recommending that the legacy be preserved at Michigan Tech’s official state mineral museum.

That legacy goes back to the early days of the University of Michigan when, in 1837, the university moved to Ann Arbor and Michigan became a state. The UM mineral collection began a year later, in 1838, when the Board of Regents purchased the mineral collection of European Baron Louis Lederer, dating to the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

The collection also includes specimens collected by Douglass Houghton, the first state geologist and the second professor hired by UM. The city of Houghton — home of Michigan Tech and the mineral museum — was named for him.

A copper specimen from the Phoenix Mine in Keweenaw County. The red color comes from a thin coating of the mineral cuprite. MTU photo by  Debra Wilson
A copper specimen from the Phoenix Mine in Keweenaw County. The red color comes from a thin coating of the mineral cuprite. MTU photo by Debra Wilson

The collection contains some world-class specimens, including a rare cut and polished stalactite from a cave found in Sardinia, Italy in the late 1800s, a world-class stibnite from the Island of Shikoku, Japan, acquired in 1916, and unique copper pieces from the Quincy Mine, the Phoenix Mine, and elsewhere on the Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan. (One of the copper specimens is pictured above.)

A small sampling of the historically significant University of Michigan mineral collection is now on public exhibit at the A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum in Houghton.

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