The Mineralogical Record
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University of Arizona
(1891-    )

The University of Arizona Mineral Museum houses one of the finest mineral collections of its kind in an academic department. It began with an act of the Arizona State Legislature establishing a School of Mines in Tucson, Arizona Territory, in 1885; the main building opened for classes in 1891, and Arizona became a state 21 years later, in 1912. The original building, known today as "Old Main," still stands at the center of the sprawling University of Arizona campus.

Mineralogy was one of the original subjects taught at the University, and a proper collection of minerals was essential for teaching purposes. The 1892 University of Arizona Register states: "In addition to collections made by Prof. Blandy, formerly Territorial Geologist, the private collections of the Director of the School of Mines (Dr. Theo. Comstock) are on deposit in the Museum." This is the first reference to the Mineral Museum, and suggests that it was established prior to 1892.

In 1893 the Territorial Museum was established on campus, incorporating not just the growing mineral collection but also ethnographic artifacts and historical documents. The mineral collection was the responsibility of William Phipps Blake who arrived in 1895 as the new Director of the School of Mines, as geology and mining instructor, and as the first Territorial Geologist. He took an active interest in the Territorial Museum, and increased the size and scope of the mineral collection. By 1900 many fine specimens of Arizona minerals were on display; "Among these may be mentioned particularly superb specimens from the mines of the Copper Queen at Bisbee."

The Territorial Museum was moved to new quarters in 1905, in 1915, and again in 1919 when the new Mines and Engineering Building was completed and the Mineral Museum once again became a formal entity of its own. Prominent faculty members including Frank Nelson Guild, Frederick Leslie Ransome, Bert Sylvester Butler, Maxwell Naylor Short and Frederic W. Galbraith were especially involved in the growth and curation of the collection. In 1957 the collection was finally given spacious, well-lit quarters and refurbished cases in the newly completed Geology Building, where it resided for many years until being transferred a few years ago to equally spacious quarters on the lower level of the Flandrau Science Center.

Students, alumni, the State of Arizona, the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society, and local mining companies including especially Phelps-Dodge Corporation have all assisted the continued growth of the collection. Other donors have included P. G. Beckett, Boodle Lane, Martin Schwerin, J. E. Burtin, Susie Davis and Richard Bideaux. A portion of the collection of Mexican specimens assembled by the late Miguel Romero, Mexico's leading mineral collector, was donated to the Museum by his family.

Today the mineral museum houses over 16,000 specimens in the main collection and over 6,000 in the micromount collection. The collection currently represents over 1,400 different species with over 2,000 specimens currently on display. The mineral museum also has two displays of meteorites from localities around the world. The collection itself is divided into roughly ten major exhibits, including a new exhibit of the minerals from the Guanajuato mining district in Mexico and an exhibit of recently donated meteorites. Minerals from famous Arizona localities such as Bisbee and Tiger also have special displays. As an attractive and interesting complement to the minerals, a collection of 17 historic oil paintings of Arizona mining scenes from the 1920's, by Willam Davidson White (1896-1971), lines the walls.

Reference:
ANTHONY, J. W. (1980) The mineral museum of the University of Arizona. Mineralogical Record, 11, 239-241.
www.geo.arizona.edu/minmus
WETMORE, S. (1993) Museum Notes: The early history of the University of Arizona Mineral Museum. Rock Talk, 36 (4-5), 7-8.
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[Citation format for this entry:
WILSON, Wendell E. (2017)
Mineralogical Record
Biographical Archive, at www.mineralogicalrecord.com.]
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The Mineralogical Record - University of Arizona 72 x 95 mm
A label from the 1891-1912 period during which Arizona was a territory, prior to statehood
The Mineralogical Record - University of Arizona 51 x 76 mm
The Mineralogical Record - University of Arizona 51 x 76 mm
An "attribution label" provided to visitors for contributing previously unrecorded historical or locality information for a specimen
The Mineralogical Record - University of Arizona 50 x 75 mm
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