THE mineral collections of the University of Michigan had an unusual beginning. One of the first acquisitions by the Board of Regents, purchased in 1838 for $4,000, was the Baron L. Lederer Mineral Collection, consisting of about 2,600 specimens, chiefly from European countries. Thus, before there were any students or classrooms, the University had a mineral collection. In spite of our knowledge concerning this early beginning, a period of sixty years followed about which very little is known. Record books still exist, in which the various items of the Lederer Collection were catalogued, and in which succeeding acquisitions were listed.
Many of the early entries bear the names of Douglass Houghton (A.M. and M.D. Rensselaer Polytechnic Inst. '29), the first to be appointed Professor of Geology and Mineralogy in 1839, and of Silas Hamilton Douglass (A.M. hon. Vermont '47), who succeeded Houghton after his death. The name of Alexander Winchell (Wesleyan '47, LL.D. ibid. '67), Professor of Geology, Zoology, and Botany, occurs many times. One record book lists the mineral collection of Theodore N. Chase, with more than two hundred entries. The name Van Vechten appears repeatedly, especially in connection with minerals from California.
When Edward Henry Kraus (Syracuse '96, LL.D. ibid. '34, Ph.D. Munich '01) first came to the University in 1904 as Assistant Professor of Mineralogy, the mineral collections were in the basement of Tappan Hall, where the Mineralogy Department was housed. The six large cases in which the main collection was displayed were not new at that time. These same cases still contain the major part of the minerals which are on public display in Room 2071 of the Natural Science Building.
After 1900 there was a steady growth in the collections, including mineralogical, petrological, and crystallographic specimens. In addition to the general systematic collection, various special collections are worthy of mention. These include the Frederick S. Stearns Collection of Gems, given to the University in 1931-32, and valued at $10,000. This consists of both cut and uncut material. A part of it is on display with other gem material in a special case. The W. R. Candler Collection of Agates is on view in one of the second-floor corridor cases. Of particular interest are several hundred meteorites given over the years by Page 1520Stuart H. Perry, of Adrian. Some of the larger specimens are on exhibit. A fine collection of polished slabs of domestic and foreign marbles and other rocks and a remarkable collection of sulfur and associated minerals from Sicily are also worthy of mention. A unique collection of antarctic rocks, both from the Byrd Antarctic Expedition (1928-30) and others, is not on display, but is available for research and classroom use.
Various individuals have been interested in the mineral collections, and have done much to improve them. Lucius Lee Hubbard, state geologist (1883-99) and Regent of the University of Michigan (1911-33), was very active in his support of the collections, both in his official capacity as Regent, and as a donor of many fine specimens from the copper country in northern Michigan. William Bennett Colburn, formerly of Detroit, did much to improve the arrangement of the collections. He also was the donor of many specimens and was helpful in obtaining the Stearns Collection of Gems for the University. He was given the title of Honorary Associate Curator in 1933.
When the Geology Museum in the Natural Science Building was discontinued in 1943, many specimens of minerals and rocks were turned over to the Department of Mineralogy. These made a very fine addition to the mineral collections.
During the course of a recent investigation of micas, sponsored by the United States Signal Corps, an outstanding collection of analyzed specimens of micas from all over the world has been acquired.
Field trips to various localities by members of the staff have resulted in many acquisitions. Important among these were the specimens collected by E. William Heinrich (Iowa State '40, M.S. Harvard '42, Ph.D. Harvard '47), Associate Professor of Mineralogy and Curator of the Mineralogical Collections, while in Europe in 1950. At the same time he arranged exchanges with various European institutions which resulted in the addition of specimens from many important European countries.
A large part of the collections is not on display, chiefly because of lack of space. This material, however, is available for study and research. In addition, thousands of rock and mineral specimens are used in the teaching program. These include special collections housed in the lecture rooms, where they are easily available for demonstration, and much larger collections used in the laboratories.
In addition to the mineral and rock specimens, the collections include many crystal models. Large glass models of all possible crystal forms and cardboard models illustrating the crystal forms observed on common minerals are available for lecture demonstration. More than a thousand small wooden models are available in the laboratory for the study of crystallography.
The collections also include many thin sections of rocks and minerals, including ores and polished specimens for study with the microscope; lantern slides, both black and white and in color, illustrating many different phases of mineralogy; and numerous photographs. Of special interest among the latter are a series of scenes of diamond recovery in the early days at Kimberley.