Beau­ties of the nat­u­ral world

Cosmos - - Spectrum - — ANTHEA BATSAKIS

The Academy of Nat­u­ral Sciences, Philadel­phia, un­til Novem­ber 2017

SHOULD YOU HAP­PEN to be in the United States in the next cou­ple of months, you could do a lot worse than hop over to Philadel­phia and visit Drexel Univer­sity’s Academy of Nat­u­ral Sciences. There, you can en­joy the ge­o­log­i­cal won­ders that com­prise its ex­hi­bi­tion, Spec­i­men Spot­light: Trea­sures from the Min­eral Vault. On show is a cel­e­bra­tion of the spec­trum of vivid colours and va­ri­ety of shapes that

min­er­als man­i­fest. The cu­ra­tors, whose fo­cus has been unashamedly on aes­thetic ap­peal rather than his­tory or sci­en­tific anom­aly, searched through the mu­seum’s vault and pulled out 50 ex­hibits from their fa­mous col­lec­tion.

Spec­i­men Spot­light doesn’t in­clude any of the more ob­vi­ous gem­stone su­per­stars such as di­a­monds and ru­bies. It looks in­stead at the beauty of lesser-val­ued min­er­als, in­clud­ing quartz, cal­cite, flu­o­rite and feldspar.

Vis­i­tors can un­ravel the mys­ter­ies of their oth­er­worldly ap­pear­ance as ex­pla­na­tions of the un­der­ly­ing sci­ence ac­com­pany the dis­plays.

Ever won­dered why some min­er­als look starkly dif­fer­ent when their chem­i­cal makeup is the same? And what’s the dif­fer­ence be­tween a rock and a min­eral any­way?

The Academy’s min­eral col­lec­tion is one of the largest in the world, home to more than 2000 spec­i­mens gathered since the mu­seum opened in 1812, mak­ing it the old­est in­tact col­lec­tion in the US. Some of the trea­sures now on show have spent decades locked away.

The ex­hi­bi­tion runs un­til Novem­ber 30.

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