Putting Fine Minerals on the Map

The Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas can be counted among other great U.S. science museums, like the Smithsonian

By Dr. Robert Lavinsky

gems2Dallas is the largest metroplex in central Texas, but it is blessed with absolutely nothing mineralogical in the ground except gas and oil. But now, the Perot Museum in Dallas is the nation’s newest museum of natural history, where minerals and crystals of the highest caliber are presented simultaneously as science and art. The museum is named after computer-industry businessman Ross Perot and his wife Margot in recognition of their children’s contributions to fund the building, and of Perot’s contribution to the computer technology industry in Texas. The museum’s goal is all about inspiring curiosity in the next generation.

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Each mineral case has a high-tech, touch-display tablet next to it, which shows photos and information for each specimen and can be customized and changed easily as the specimens are rotated.

A Closer Look
The Perot Museum represents a new experiment in museum building in several ways. Firstly, it was built only with private money, no public money or debt of any kind. Newly opened on December 1, 2012, the 180,000 square-foot museum is a remarkable building that integrates sustainability, technology and nature in its design by Pritzker Prize Laureate Thom Mayne. Another innovation at the Perot, largely with a push from me in the formation stages, the museum developed a unique model: It called on the large Dallas private collecting community to participate in loans of extraordinary specimens for a public display. This allowed the museum to present a world-class collection from opening day. The minerals are rotated periodically, keeping the displays dynamic and exciting while providing the public with access to some of the best specimens from the local collector group that might never be seen otherwise. It is hoped that in the future some of those specimens and collections might be donated and given a permanent home.

PerotMuseumEvent-0030The museum displays the stunning mineral specimens in gallery cases suitable for the finest art, in a darkened hall that more resembles an art gallery than a traditional, perhaps boring, old museum. The effect is to see these specimens we love as true treasures, displayed and presented as if they were valuable works of sculpture instead of as mere “rocks on a shelf.”
In the minerals hall are numerous engaging activities using computer simulations and videos to learn about what makes a mineral, how crystals grow, and what causes color and form in minerals. We have created a crystal and gems hall in Dallas that can be counted among other great U.S. museums of science, such as the Smithsonian, American Museum, and Houston Museum.

Tourmaline with Quartz, Brazil, 35 cm tall, Lavinsky collection

Tourmaline with Quartz, Brazil, 35 cm tall, Lavinsky collection

The Lyda Hill Gems and Minerals Hall
The minerals hall itself is lavishly built due to a generous $15 million donation from mineral collector Lyda Hill of Dallas. Another 20 collectors contributed specimens for display. Highlights include a re-created pocket approximately 5 feet tall of gem tourmaline and quartz crystals from Brazil, as well as the largest crystallized gold specimen ever found in North America, from the 16-to-1 Mine in the Northern California gold district.

Near the entrance is one of the 10 must-see items in the museum: a large, rich purple amethyst geode from Uruguay, nicknamed “Grape Jelly,” measuring nearly 6 feet tall and massing thousands of kilos. It is attached to a series of hydraulic wheels and levered so perfectly on them that, even at 2 years old, my son could turn the wheel in front and watch these giant geode halves open and close.

With our flagship new Perot Museum, crystals in Dallas are getting long-overdue recognition, and with their innovative and artistic displays, the museum is putting minerals on the map in a way that has never been accomplished before.

To plan a summer visit, go to www.perotmuseum.org.

Putting Fine Minerals on the Map