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Natural History Museum London
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nurbo




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PostPosted: Feb 22, 2011 05:51    Post subject: Natural History Museum London  

I was in London for a while so I thought Id venture to the mineral room at the natural history museum in South Kensington. Ill get my complaints out of the way first..

Firstly ... the politically correct and the busy body lawyers have been in there and all the radioactives have been removed for "Safety reasons", this is ridiculous, they have many fragile specimens that would be susceptible to damage sealed in glass containers so why not the radioactives if theyre that paranoid about them

Secondly ... I found the lighting in certain areas to be appaling, yellow light bulbs which afffect the colour of some of the pieces, some of the pieces are in the shadows thown by the pillars that hold the roof up and are extremely hard to see in any detail escpecially if your eyes are as rubbish as mine.

Thridly ... some of the more fragile pieces are literally falling to bits due to not being kept in the righ conditions

Fourthly ... some items are mislabelled.

Then theres the Gift shop which sells baked Amethyst as "Citrine" alongside dyed agate and tumble stones.



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All the radioactives have these labels where the specimens should be.
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Note the difference between the light through the window and the yellow light in the cabinet.
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Decomposing Searlsite specimen, what a shame.
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Pyromorphite, Broken Hill ZAMBIA?????
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Benitoite with BLACK Natrolite?????
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Baked Amethyst sold as Citrine in the gift shop.
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nurbo




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PostPosted: Feb 22, 2011 06:09    Post subject: Re: Natural History Museum London  

The good thing though is it is huge and has an absolutely amazing collection. I took about 130 photos and didnt even scratch the surface. It really is mind boggling how great the collection they have is, from slabs of Granite to a huge number of minerals Id not previously heard of to Calictes and Quartz. They have a fine collection of UK minerals from all over the country. Amazing and totally worth a vist, though I reckon it is overwhelming so its best to go a few times so you dont get any sensory overload, I'll post more later.


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The Hall of rocks.
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Jap Law Quartz from Brazil, around 20 - 25 cms tall
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Huge Beryl crystal about 75 cms tall I think it is from Mexico.
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Crandallitte from Cornwall about 75 - 80 cms across
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Incredible 75 + cm Witherite, from the Fallowfield Mine
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Huge Kidney Ore about 75+ cms across from Lindal Moor
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Beautifully formed Andreasberg Calcite, about 75+ cms across.
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Scottish Galena on Quartz around 30 cm across.
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Huge Cerussite from Cornwall, around 75+ cms.
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Jordi Fabre
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PostPosted: Feb 22, 2011 06:13    Post subject: Re: Natural History Museum London  

nurbo wrote:

Pyromorphite, Broken Hill ZAMBIA?????


Yes, is a mine named Broken Hill also in Zambia and with green Pyromorphites! ;-) -> https://www.mindat.org/loc-4341.html
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arturo shaw




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PostPosted: Feb 22, 2011 06:22    Post subject: Re: Natural History Museum London  

Hi,

First I think that we have to separate the museum and minerals display from the shops which are private business and have nothing to do with the minerals collection.

Did you pay to visit the collection? Every museum in the world has problems dealing with the little amount of many they have to keep their collection. I would like to have more money to deal with mine too. No Museum at all will object if you insist to make a contribution in cash, many even have boxes ready for the case being. :-)

I think we could wait for Alan or Mike to tell us about those problems you are mentioning and the reasons behind.

And I will be there after tomorrow and take a direct look at the situation. :-)

Cheers

Arturo Shaw

PS: Was the exhibition on sex already open? (Doesn't sound right "exhibition on sex" I find) :-)

Cheers

Arturo Shaw
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PostPosted: Feb 22, 2011 06:46    Post subject: Re: Natural History Museum London  

I believe it deserves the read of what Alan Hart, curator of London Natural History Museum, wrote -> https://www.mineral-forum.com/message-board/viewtopic.php?p=3073#3073 (and following) as well as the whole thread "Museums policy", impulsed by Gail and that I consider one of the best threads of FMF -> https://www.mineral-forum.com/message-board/viewtopic.php?t=442
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crocoite




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PostPosted: Feb 22, 2011 07:22    Post subject: Re: Natural History Museum London  

Nothing wrong with Broken Hill, Zambia...

Regards
Steve
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Peter




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PostPosted: Feb 22, 2011 08:39    Post subject: Re: Natural History Museum London  

The large beryl I think is from the Moss area, Östfold (east side of the Oslo fjord), Norway.
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Les Presmyk




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PostPosted: Feb 22, 2011 08:43    Post subject: Re: Natural History Museum London  

Broken Hill, Rhodesia produced world-class pyromorphite, smithsonite, hopeite and parahopeite, among others. I was not sure if the total locality was being questioned or just Zambia versus Rhodesia.
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Alan.Hart




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PostPosted: Feb 22, 2011 08:55    Post subject: Re: Natural History Museum London  

Well first off thanks for posting a message about our collections, whether good news or bad - people have opinions and it also gives us a chance to not only try and put things in perspective but also reveal our plans and hope to set things straight - and of course learn what people want to see.

First off, arturo is right in the fact that the shops are very much separate from the minerals collection, although we would like to build a closer relationship with content - I will certainly bring this to the attention of our 'shops' people to ensure we put in some disclosure here.

Yes, all 'radioactive' specimens have been removed from display apart from a few that are in specially designed lead-lined and mirror viewed cases. The reason being that we had to follow health and safety legislation and obey legal limits of exposure compliance. The only reason we have kept the labels in the case was to try and maintain some semblance of 'systematics' although as I shall come to later this will be reviewed.

We are quite aware of some of the decayed specimens which are being removed (albeit slowly), and the variance in lighting (although I must say your image does make it look much worse considering your other images of large specimens are in identical cases). Fluorescent lighting is the worse type for any display, daylight of course being best for which the space itself is very good for within the systematic collection (apart from the darker early evenings). I had to smile at the 'black natrolite', a more recent label that seems to have been somewhat swopped around during proof reading - to be fixed.

With such a large collection and collections 'space' there will always be some problems. However, this doesn't mean that they should be overlooked, so in terms of the future we are looking at major plans for the development of the collection and displays. I'm glad you figured some positive aspects and specimens from the collection. It is true to say that every-time I come into the Museum and walk through the collection areas I am simply amazed by it. Indeed, I believe it is still one of the largest and most comprehensive (if not the!) in terms of its depth of coverage, although of course in more recent years it has been lacking in resources to develop as we would like - however I see a change here.

For some background information - for some years we had been close to losing the gallery. With what looked like a global decline in systematic mineralogy through loss of systematic displays to themes, or the what I like to call the rise of 'short-term-ism' where the realisation of the monetary value of specimens leads to what can only be described as selling off the 'family silver' to raise funds which may not be directly related to developing a the collection from which they came - things looked pretty grim. However, at the NHM the collection is not only about the display itself, but also about how it may faciliate active research into various aspects of the mineral Sciences. It is through cleverly linking these perceived different aspects of collections that we can plan a way forward to develop both.

As curator, who is fortunate to have an excellent (and small) team to work with, we have a vision to set in motion that will certainly take time - but our plans are coming together. I hoped you managed to see the Vault space which was our first goal, to show off some of the best parts of our collection with good narrative information that both enlightens our visitors and sets a standard of display. This exhibition has been a huge success, visitors coming to Museum who may never had considered the beauty of a well crystallised specimen, have been 'enlightened' and no doubt wondered at how some of the magnificent specimens have 'formed'. From this exhibition, we have a direct link pointing at the systematic collection as 'natures mineralogical diversity', and through this we have a plan of collections development that is not only in place to facilitate the aim of having this diversity represented, but as to how it may be used (or is used) as a research resource. This has lead to our second goal in that the collection is not perceived as a 'dreary display of extended Victoriana', but a dynamic collection that meets the needs of research linked with a diverse specimen display, including the many unique specimens that reflect this.

Our next goal is to develop the gallery display itself. As I mentioned, we do acknowledge that the gallery needs upgrading, including some new lighting since it has hardly changed since 1880, but we do need to fit this in with other Museum priorities ahead of it. One of the major issues is of course 'funding', which would be quite significant to put in place the changes we anticipate. However, I do see that over the next few years this will happen - we like to think we have developed good relationships to those who may consider realising our goals. For me personally the goal will be keeping the impressiveness and historical aspects of the space, but adding modern lighting and a mechanisms for keeping the displays revised and up-to-date, and to ensure the collection itself is both continued to be added to through a dynamic acquisitions programme. This is already happening in terms of how Mike and I are now funded to attend the Tucson and Munich shows with a much better 'budget' being in place year on year - but we still have a way to go. Its here also I must thank those people who loan and donate to us specimens and funds, which has been rather better lately - I hope a reflection that that we are seen as a place that is still 'doing Mineralogy' including developing the collections and championing our hobby and science.

I have seemingly digressed a little. Yes we have problems as all large public collections do, but I hope you can see how far we have come and how far we want to go.

Also, we usually like to have some warning, but if you go to the visitors desk and we are here, we are usually always willing to say hi and 'talk minerals'

Arturio, 'Sexual Nature' is our new temporary exhibition, it is open and I must say I found it actually very good indeed having not much idea what to expect!

Best

Alan

Mineralogy Head of Collections, NHM
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PostPosted: Feb 22, 2011 09:10    Post subject: Re: Natural History Museum London  

As FMFers can see, Alan is extremely affordable and friendly, and this is a treasure considering the fabulous patrimony he manages.

As I also said to other people with some critics to the current state of the NHM, please give Alan the oportunity to expand his projects and please try to be generous with him and the NHM. I believe the future of NHM is much better than his current state, just give Alan, Mike and the rest of the team, chances to do his best.

BTW, Alan, you would like to know that we also discussed in the Spanish side about the NHM, and the comments there were almost enthusiatic. Everybody in Spain loves NHM! -> https://www.foro-minerales.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2027 (with a lot of photos to enjoy!)
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katherine.Dunnell




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PostPosted: Feb 22, 2011 09:45    Post subject: Re: Natural History Museum London  

I think Alan hit on a couple of key issues in his post, and ones that are not stressed enough. We all are working against a strong swing of the life sciences at the moment, where bugs, Darwinism and environmental geology are deemed to be more "sexy" than traditional mineralogy.
Funding to a "stale" science is hard, made that much harder given that rocks and minerals are not a core science in elementary and high schools.
Funding and more importantly, resources within the museum are ever stretched. At the ROM, we have ample endowments for getting lights upgraded, labels, rotating cases, but to find bodies and preparators to do the work is a challenge, as their time is scheduled for major exhibitions and developing galleries.
It is like building a house, in that everyone is focused on 'getting it done', but trying to get a contractor back in to clean up deficiencies is terribly hard. We work in the context of a larger institution with dwindling resources, so it is incredibly challenging to get work done as the motto in a lot of museums is "if it isn't broken..."
I know Alan and I have spoken about his wish list for the museum, and they are actively trying to upgrade stores and display spaces within his discipline. There are exciting times ahead at the NHM, London.
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Jesse Fisher




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PostPosted: Feb 22, 2011 11:43    Post subject: Re: Natural History Museum London  

In Nurbo's post, no mention was made of the adjoining Geological Museum and what has happened to it in recent years. If anyone remembers the old museum, which is now the eastern entrance to the NHM on Exhibition Road, it had excellent displays of both British and world-wide minerals with an emphasis on gemstone minerals, along with much on British geology. During the early 1990s this space was completely made-over, to the cost of many millions of Pounds. What we have now are some very "artistic" spaces with statues of famous figures from scientific history, a few minerals in lighted window-boxes, and a long escalator that ascends through a stylized globe that once rotated. In a side room there is a mineral display, which, while it houses some very fine British specimens, is so poorly lit and arranged that it offers absolutely no education on mineralogy or the history of British science to the visitor. Perhaps Alan can confirm (or deny) this, but I was told that at the time this remodel was done there were plans to remove the old systematic display, and that the only reason it survives today is that there was not the money available to dismantle it.

What this points up, I think, are some of the changes (and conflicts) that have arisen in how both the visiting public and the management of many natural history and science museums view their role in society. There has been much hash made about the dumbing-down of society in recent years, and judging from what I hear from a few friends who teach in public schools (here in the US), it sounds like science education has largely fallen off the curriculum in many places. If the visiting public is no longer interested in static displays about science, how do science museums retain their relevance? Many seem to be choosing to become what I call "Natural History Theme Parks" that specialize in entertainment rather than education.

A very good example if this trend is the San Francisco Academy of Sciences. Before the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake damaged the old structure, it housed many "traditional" style exhibits, including an extensive set of dioramas depicting native American Indian cultures along the Pacific Coast, as well as a modest mineral display. All this is now gone, and a new building has been constructed that is "environmentally compatible." This means that there is absolutely no climate control for the exhibits, which I guess doesn't matter as all the old ones are now gone. What we have now are an aquarium and tidepool exhibit where kids can handle the starfish, a simulated tropical rainforest, which due to health and safety concerns contains no poisonous plants or insects, no Howler Monkeys in the tree-tops, and not a drop of precipitation to cause the casual visitor any discomfort. There are three gift-shops all selling the same t-shirts, logo coffee mugs, jewelry and a few coffee-table picture books. Not a single scientific textbook or journal was to be seen. On the day I visited the place was packed, despite the rather high entry fee of $25 per head. Ironically, the most popular exhibit seemed to be the food concession, where-by visitors left behind even more money.

Modern science museums are facing a dilemma in that entertainment is more popular with the public than education. Natural history, which was once in vogue (particularly in Victorian England) is now quite out of fashion. To justify themselves and their hard-fought budgets, many museums are becoming institutes of public entertainment rather than learning and research. This obviously gets more of the public through the doors than static old science displays. Fortunately for those of us interested in mineralogy and geology, we still have the systematic hall at the NHM. It sorely needs modernization in some respects (though I must admit that I absolutely love the old Victorian display cabinets). Alan and Mike have a monumental task in front of them to engineer this, while preserving the educational and historical aspects of the display. They deserve the support of anyone who truly cares about minerals and the history of science.
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nurbo




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PostPosted: Feb 22, 2011 12:27    Post subject: Re: Natural History Museum London  

Hi again,
EEK! I didnt expect such a thorough, swift and enlightening response from the people "On the spot" as it were, this is a testemant to what a superb resource this forum is for everyone from your small amateur collector (Like me) to the far more significant individuals in the mineral world.
Really in my initial post I intended to have a little moan about a couple of what are really minor issues in the face of such a huge and amazing collection as is found at the NHM, then post some of the better photos from the 130 or so I took while I was there.

I was absolutely blown away by the mineral room, I visited 3 times because it is impossible to take it in in one visit, in fact its impossible to take it in in 3 visits. The endless cases of superb specimen after superb specimen is breathtaking. The museum is free, obviously you can donate via donation boxes and Id like to think that those of us who visit will give to the extent our finances allow.

It is remiss of me to have not checked the Broken Hill locality in Zambia before stating this was an error but those of you who have read my previous posts will no doubt realise sometimes I say things before Ive really thought them through. I was wrong and I stand corrected, however if I hadnt seen the "Black Natrolite" label I would have been far more likely to have assumed there was a Broken Hill in Zambia. Im not seeking to justify my incorrect statement merely trying to make the point that if you see one thing wrongly labelled it sets a mental precedant whereby one might assume that other things are also mislabelled, I also appreciate that typos happen and I have every faith that the immense majority of specimens in the collection are correctly labelled.

Regarding the gift shop I also appreciate this is a business and seperate from the mineral department but selling baked Amethyst as Citrine is a pet irritation for myself as well as many others.

The photograph which shows the yellow lighting is simply how my phone took it, Im never sure about mobile phone photography, but thats how it looked next to the natural light that was coming through the window.

All in all though its an amazing collection, an amazing museum and clearly the staff are working hard to improve things which is very heartening.

More photos ....All measurements are very much approximations from memory.



box.JPG
 Description:
The finest Siderite "Box" you will ever be lucky enough to see. I seem to remember it being around 15 cms across sorry the photo isnt too great.
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Incredible Baryte, about 75 cms tall,
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Monster Galena specimen, see human for scale
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a cabinet of Microclines
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Adularia about 30 cms tall
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Quartz stands about 25-30 cms
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Fluorite about 25 cms tall
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Approx 15cms
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enormous Japanese Stibnite, probably about a metre across
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a pair of stunning Cornish Calcites around 15 - 20 cms tall
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Calcite maybe 30cms in diameter
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nurbo




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PostPosted: Feb 24, 2011 01:00    Post subject: Re: Natural History Museum London  

More pictures, so many of the pieces are enormous.


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Stunning Phosgenites
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Zinnwaldite's
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huge Garnets in matrix about a metre across,
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Blue Fluorite from Ullcoats , wow!
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Alston Barytocalcite
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another English Fluorite this one from Weardale
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Idocrase,.
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Ojuela material is quite well represented too,
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Cave-in-rock Fluorite and another Cornish one, huge specimens.
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big Brazillianite
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Jesse Fisher




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PostPosted: Feb 24, 2011 10:40    Post subject: Re: Natural History Museum London  

A few photos, taken summer 2010, from the area that was once the Geological Museum.


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Helidor beryl on feldspar from the Ural Mts., Russia.
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Fluorite on quartz with chalcopyrite from Cornwall (Caradon mines, I think). One of my personal favorites in the museum!
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Fluorite from Rotherhope Fell Mine, Alston Moor, Cumbria.
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 Description:
Baryte from the West Cumbrian Iron Ore Fields around Frizington.
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 Description:
A photo of the gallery that once housed the mineral display for the Geological Museum.
 Viewed:  37052 Time(s)

IMG_4593r.jpg


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Maxilos




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PostPosted: Feb 24, 2011 13:17    Post subject: Re: Natural History Museum London  

Hi,

I'm going to London with my school. We're with 13 persons and we were alowed to choose where we wanted to go. I of course said National Historical/Geological Museum London. It looks promising. The minerals look great, the Japanese Stibnite in particular.

I hope you've got more of those nice pictures!

Kind regards

Mark

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nurbo




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PostPosted: Feb 25, 2011 01:20    Post subject: Re: Natural History Museum London  

Hi again,
More pics. Maxilos if you can go do, but avoid weekends if you can, the lines of people waiting to enter are very long at the weekends and it can take an hour or so to get in to the museum.



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 Description:
25+cm Benitoite specimen, I couldnt figure if the Natrolite needed further alkalising or if its just an odd colour.
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 Description:
Huge Diopside specimen, I think it was about 35 cms tall
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 Description:
30 cm Emerald
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 Description:
15 cm Quartz
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 Description:
Lovely Uvarovites
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 Description:
Rubellites on matrix, this piece is about a metre across.
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 Description:
Babingtonites, the best Ive ever seen.
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 Description:
this is the first thing you see on ebtering the hall, the Blue Fluorite is about 35 + cms across.
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 Description:
Top quality Dioptase
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 Description:
The specimens are well spaced out in the cabinets for maximum viewing enjoyment.
 Viewed:  36918 Time(s)

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Jesse Fisher




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PostPosted: Feb 25, 2011 10:02    Post subject: Re: Natural History Museum London  

Just a quick tip to anyone trying to photograph minerals that are behind glass - if your camera is set on autofocus, it will almost invariably focus on the glass and rarely on the objects behind it. For best results, use a camera that can be switched to a manual focus mode. Also, if you are using a flash, try to shoot at an oblique angle to the glass to avoid getting reflections of the flash in the image.
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Darren




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PostPosted: Feb 26, 2011 00:03    Post subject: Re: Natural History Museum London  

Gotta love those Barytes!!! And the fluorite on quartz - wow! Thanks, Jesse!!! I remember reading a review of the museum a few years ago that was not very nice! Kind of cool to see it, thanks.

Darren
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nurbo




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PostPosted: Feb 26, 2011 02:58    Post subject: Re: Natural History Museum London  

hi
I took these on my old mobile, so manual focus is out of the question, Id like to think they are adequate to whet the appetite of potential visitors though. I did discover that you get slightly better photos if you press the phone camera lense onto the glass rather than taking them from a distance. Next time I go Ill take my proper camera.
I emailed the gift shop to complain about the whole burnt Amethyst thing and they have now sent me 2 emails, apologising and saying they will look into it and keep me informed. This I find very impressive, they got in touch pretty much straight away and I believe they will do something about it. I think it devalues their biggest potential selling point for minerals, that being an NHM label, I was looking for a specimen to buy at the museum, but the gift shop had nothing of any interest for me, They must have hundreds of pieces gathering dust that could be sold off to raise funds to improve the collection, Im surprised they dont have an online shop for deaccessioned pieces carrying the NHM label, I for one would buy stuff.
Some more pics .........



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 Description:
15+cm Norwegian Phenakite
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 Description:
slightly blurry but what a Fluorite !!!! from MExico about 10 - 15 cm across
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 Description:
Slightly off topic but this is a Dodo bird skeleton, an actual real Dodo bird!!! dates to 1860, amazing or what.
 Viewed:  36715 Time(s)

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 Description:
metre long Cerussite specimen from Cornwall.
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 Description:
this piece is about 30 cms, I seem to remember it being from Cornwall too, but I could be wrong.
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 Description:
Dry Gill Mimetite, very well formed fat crystals in several colours, about 6+ cms Im a bit confused as to what "With wad" means though.
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 Description:
big Apatite, probably 20 cms long
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 Description:
Biotite about 25+ cms
 Viewed:  36715 Time(s)

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DSC00293.JPG
 Description:
Huge Spodumenes, 30+ cms long
 Viewed:  36708 Time(s)

DSC00293.JPG


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