100 years – 100 Objects: Spodumene

The Houston Museum of Natural Science was founded in 1909 - meaning that the curators of the Houston Museum of Natural Science have been collecting and preserving natural and cultural treasures for a hundred years now. For this yearlong series, our current curators have chosen one hundred exceptional objects from the Museum’s immense storehouse of specimens and artifacts—one for each year of our history. Check back here frequently to learn more about this diverse selection of behind-the-scenes curiosities—we will post the image and description of a new object every few days.

This description is from Joel, the Museum’s President and Curator of Gems and Minerals. He’s chosen spectacular objects from the Museum’s mineralogy collection, which includes some of the most rare and fascinating mineral specimens in the world, that we’ll be sharing here – and at 100.hmns.org- throughout the year.

Spodumene - variety Kunzite

Spodumene (variety kunzite)
Pala Chief Mine, San Diego County, California

When the mineral spodumene occurs in lilac-colored crystals it is known as the variety kunzite (after the eminent Tiffany & Company mineralogist George F. Kunz, 1856-1932). The gorgeous 30-cm crystal shown here, from the Pala Chief mine in San Diego County, California, is one of the finest North American kunzite crystals ever recovered and the best that has been found in California.

Marvel at the world’s most spectacular collection of natural mineral crystals in the Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

You can see more images of this fascinating artifact – as well as the others we’ve posted so far this year – in the 100 Objects section at 100.hmns.org.

100 Years – 100 Objects: Brachiopod

The Houston Museum of Natural Science was founded in 1909 - meaning that the curators of the Houston Museum of Natural Science have been collecting and preserving natural and cultural treasures for a hundred years now. For this yearlong series, our current curators have chosen one hundred exceptional objects from the Museum’s immense storehouse of specimens and artifacts—one for each year of our history. Check back here frequently to learn more about this diverse selection of behind-the-scenes curiosities—we will post the image and description of a new object every few days.

This description is from David Temple, the museum’s curator of paleontology. He’s chosen a selection of objects that represent the most fascinating fossils in the Museum’s collections, that we’ll be sharing here – and at 100.hmns.org/ – throughout the year.

Brachiopod, Grandaurispina kingorum
(Permian, Willis Ranch Member, World Formation, Brewster County, Texas)

CHI_7629The Glass Mountains are famous for silicified fossils of Permian age, such as this Brachiopod. Unique build-ups of fossil shells, both wave-generated accumulations of dead shells and massive brachiopod-dominated reefs, produced by the complex interactive growth of millions of marine invertebrates that occur in the Glass Mountains.

Fossils from the Glass Mountains are of special interest because of their level of detail. Blocks of limestone from the Glass Mountains can be treated with weak acids to dissolve the limestone from the acid-resistant silicified fossils. This process often leaves unharmed the delicate spines and ornamentation found on some brachiopods and bivalves.

Wander among prehistoric beasts in the Paleontology Hall, a permanent exhibition at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

You can see more images of this fascinating artifact – as well as the others we’ve posted so far this year – in the 100 Objects section at 100.hmns.org.

100 years – 100 Objects: Child Sandal

The Houston Museum of Natural Science was founded in 1909 – meaning that the curators of the Houston Museum of Natural Science have been collecting and preserving natural and cultural treasures for a hundred years now. For this yearlong series, our current curators have chosen one hundred exceptional objects from the Museum’s immense storehouse of specimens and artifacts—one for each year of our history. Check back here frequently to learn more about this diverse selection of behind-the-scenes curiosities—we will post the image and description of a new object every few days.

This description is from Dirk, the museum’s curator of anthropology. He’s chosen a selection of objects that represent human cultures throughout time and around the world, that we’ll be sharing here – and at 100.hmns.org - throughout the year.

Child sandal, Basketmaker culture, SW US

DSC_0367This child’s sandal represents daily life, an aspect that tends to get short shrift in archaeological exhibits, where the life of the rich and famous tended to dominate.

This simple, fragile, everyday object, however, brings home that people living in what is now the Southwest US had recognizable possessions, like this prehistoric flip flop. A child once wore it and lost it. Undoubtedly this must have provoked the anger of his or her parents. Nothing much has changed in that regard over the last 1000 years.

Explore thousands of years of Native American history in the John P. McGovern Hall of the Americas, a permanent exhibition at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

You can see more images of this fascinating artifact – as well as the others we’ve posted so far this year – in the 100 Objects section at 100.hmns.org

100 Years – 100 Objects:Sextant

The Houston Museum of Natural Science was founded in 1909 – meaning that the curators of the Houston Museum of Natural Science have been collecting and preserving natural and cultural treasures for a hundred years now. For this yearlong series, our current curators have chosen one hundred exceptional objects from the Museum’s immense storehouse of specimens and artifacts—one for each year of our history. Check back here frequently to learn more about this diverse selection of behind-the-scenes curiosities—we will post the image and description of a new object every few days.

This description is from Lisa Rebori, the Museum’s Vice President of Collections. She’s chosen a selection of objects that represent our Museum’s history, and our collections of historical technologies, that we’ll be sharing here – and at 100.hmns.org- throughout the year.

Sextant resizeA sextant is a tool used for navigation and aids one in determining location.  It could be used horizontally to measure the angle between 2 objects, like 2 lighthouses, or vertically for celestial navigation, to measure the altitude of a celestial object above the horizon.  The distance, once calculated, could also provide a line of position on a nautical or aeronautical chart.  Taking these measurements is known as sighting, or shooting, the object.

Historically, the most common use for the sextant was to sight the sun at noon to determine one’s latitude.  The different colored filters allowed for the direct observation of solar measurements. 

A sailor could trust the results of the measurements, as they were taken relative to the horizon and not relative to the device itself – therefore, the results were much more precise.  Also, since the images of objects being measured were bounced between two mirrors, the sailor could offset any inaccuracies caused by the motion of the boat itself. The margin of error for celestial navigation is about 0.1 nautical miles – approximately 200 meters.  This is considered good, since a person can visually see several nautical miles. 

This device is still considered a practical back up tool for navigational purposes since it does not rely on electricity or satellites like our current GPS tools.  The only drawback is that, if damaged, sextants are irreparable because the arc might bend – making all measurements taken most likely incorrect.  So, having a case for the tool, as seen here in the photo, was essential.  To ensure their integrity, most navigators would not even share their sextants with other members of their crew.

You can see more images of this fascinating artifact – as well as the others we’ve posted so far this year – in the 100 Objects section at 100.hmns.org