Harry Frank Guggenheim Hall of Gems and Minerals

The Guggenheim Hall was an exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, that hosted one of the world's largest geological collections. In 2017 the hall closed to undergo a complete redesign.[1] The new exhibit, called the Allison and Roberto Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals, reopened in 2021.[2]

Assorted faceted and polished minerals

The Guggenheim Hall focused on petrology, mineralization and the anthropology of gems and minerals. It was the permanent home of the Star of India, one of the world's largest star sapphires. The hall was operated by the museum's department of Earth and Planetary Sciences.[citation needed]

HistoryEdit

 
The Star of India, one of many gems stolen in a 1964 heist; it was later recovered from a bus locker.

The Harry Frank Guggenheim Hall of Minerals housed hundreds of unusual geological specimens. It adjoined the Morgan Memorial Hall of Gems that showcased many rare, and valuable gemstones. The exhibit was designed by the architectural firm of William F. Pedersen and Associates with Fred Bookhardt in charge. Vincent Manson was the curator of the Mineralogy Department at the time. The exhibit took six years to design and build, 1970–1976.[citation needed]

On October 29, 1964, the Star of India, along with the Eagle Diamond, the DeLong Star Ruby and the Midnight Star, were stolen from the museum.[3] The burglars, who included Jack Murphy, gained entrance by climbing through a bathroom window they had unlocked hours before the Museum was closed. The DeLong Star Ruby and the Midnight Star were both recovered. Weeks later, the Star of India was later recovered from a locker in a Miami bus station, but the Eagle Diamond was never found; it may have been recut or lost.[4] The DeLong Star Ruby was recovered for a $25,000 ransom, paid by Florida businessman John D. MacArthur.[5]

ExhibitsEdit

On display were many renowned samples that were chosen from among the Museum's more than 100,000 pieces. Among these were the Patricia Emerald, a 632 carat (126 g) stone that is considered one of the world's great emeralds for its size and color, and also because it is dihexagonal, or 12-sided.[6] It was discovered in 1920 in a mine high in the Colombian Andes. The Patricia is one of the few large gem-quality emeralds that remains uncut.[7] Also on display was the 563 carat (113 g) Star of India, the largest, and most famous, star sapphire in the world. It was discovered over 300 years ago in Sri Lanka,[citation needed] most likely in the sands of ancient river beds from where sapphires continue to be found today. It was donated to the Museum by the financier J.P. Morgan. The thin, radiant, six pointed star, or asterism, is created by incoming light that reflects from needle-like crystals of the mineral rutile which are found within the sapphire. The Star of India is polished into the shape of a cabochon, or dome, to enhance the star's beauty.[8] Among other notable specimens on display were a 596-pound (270 kg) topaz, a 4.5 ton block of blue azurite/malachite ore that was found in the Copper Queen Mine in Bisbee, Arizona at the start of the 20th century;[9] and a rare, 100 carat (20 g) orange-colored padparadschan sapphire from Sri Lanka, considered "the mother of all pads."[10] The collection also included the Midnight Star Ruby, a 116.75-carat deep purplish-red star ruby.

SuccessorEdit

In 2021, the Allison and Roberto Mignone Hall of Gems and Minerals replaced the Guggenheim and Morgan Memorial halls. At the time of its completion in 1976, the old exhibit was praised as "one of the finest museum installations that New York or any city has seen in some years" by New York Times critic Paul Goldberger, who also complimented the space for its dynamic use of curves, ramps, steps, and level changes, and soft atmosphere.[11] By 2017, the same features that had made the exhibit cutting-edge 40 years earlier were seen as outdated. The vice president for exhibitions at the museum compared the old layout to a labyrinth, and called it mysterious.[12]

On October 26th, 2017 the exhibit closed to undergo a $32 million redesign by Ralph Appelbaum Associates.[2][13] The redesigned halls were scheduled to be completed in 2020 to correspond with the museum's 150th anniversary, but their reopening was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.[14] On June 12th, 2021 the renovated halls reopened to the general public.[12]

The new exhibits explore a range of topics, including the diversification of mineral species over the course of Earth's history, plate tectonics, and the stories of specific gems. They have adopted newer philosophies in exhibit design, including a focus on storytelling, interactivity, and connecting ideas across disciplines.[12]

The new halls continue to display famous specimens like the Star of India, DeLong Star Ruby and Patricia Emerald.[2]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Roberts, Sam (2017-10-17). "New Home for Gems and Minerals at the Museum of Natural History". The New York Times. Retrieved 2021-07-07.
  2. ^ a b c Dukes, Tanya (2021-05-23). "Some Famous Gems Get a New Setting". The New York Times. Retrieved 2021-07-08.
  3. ^ Montgomery, Paul (1964-11-01). "3 Seized in Theft of Museum Gems". The New York Times.
  4. ^ "The AMNH Gem and Mineral Collection". Archived from the original on January 29, 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-14.
  5. ^ Kriplen, Nancy (2008). The Eccentric Billionaire: John D. MacArthur -- Empire Builder, Reluctant Philanthropist, Relentless Adversary. New York: AMACOM/ American Management Association. pp. 6–9. ISBN 9780814408896.
  6. ^ Morgan, Diane (2007). From Satan's Crown to the Holy Grail: Emeralds in Myth, Magic, and History. Westport, Conn. [u.a.]: Praeger. p. 109. ISBN 9780275991234.
  7. ^ "The Patricia Emerald". American Museum of Natural History. Retrieved 29 October 2012.
  8. ^ "Star of India". American Museum of Natural History. Retrieved 29 October 2012.
  9. ^ "Hall of Minerals and Gems". Archived from the original on February 27, 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-04.
  10. ^ Hughes, Richard W. "Padparadscha and Pink Sapphire Defined". Archived from the original on March 3, 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-04.
  11. ^ Goldberger, Paul (1977-04-14). "Design Notebook". The New York Times. Retrieved 2021-07-07.
  12. ^ a b c Zimmerman, Eileen (2021-05-19). "A New York Museum Staple Gets a New Glimmer". The New York Times. Retrieved 2021-07-07.
  13. ^ Roberts, Sam (2017-10-17). "New Home for Gems and Minerals at the Museum of Natural History". The New York Times. Retrieved 2021-07-07.
  14. ^ "Opening of the Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals Postponed" (Press release). American Museum of Natural History. Retrieved 2020-07-07.