100 Years – 100 Objects: Selection of Mineral Specimens

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 on hmns.org – throughout the year.

historic-minerals-4x6Right to Left:

1.  Kalinite, Esmeralda Co., Nevada, HMNS #1317
2.  Mercury, Knoxville, California, HMNS #285
3.  Cassiterite, Tin samples from Squaw Canyon, HMNS #782
4.  Soda-niter, White Plains, Nevada, HMNS #1248
5.  Mercury in soot, Reddington Mine, Knoxville, California, HMNS #285
6.  Chrysotile, Bajenova, Urals, U.S.S.R.
7.  Borax Crystals, New Boston, Nevada, HMNS #1251

8. (Laying down) “Stream tin”, Cassiterite, Malay Islands, Collected from Kepong Dredging, HMNS
     #791 (Milsaps no. M5478)

john-et-milsaps
John E.T. Milsaps 

One of the earliest collections acquired by the Museum belonged to John E.T. Milsaps, a native Houstonian.  As an adult, Milsaps joined the Salvation Army and eventually was given oversight for “all territories west of the Mississippi.”  In this capacity, he traveled widely, collecting wherever he went, and then sent his collection back to Houston. 

These mineral specimens are from his original collection and are representative of the storage and display techniques at that time.  The minerals were secured in the glass vials or bottles with a cork and wax seal.  This allowed the minerals to be handled, but prevented them from being contaminated and assured that they could be moved and set up for display easily.

When the Museum was first started in the early 1900s it was called the Houston Public Museum. The label you see here includes the original catalogue number M (for “Milsaps”)-5478 and the note of a second catalogue number “791.”  Beginning in 1970, in an effort to re-order the mineral collection, it was decided to catalogue all of the specimens a second time, starting the record making and numbering process all over again.
historic-minerals-original-detail-cassiterite

J.E.T. Milsaps contributed much to the citizens of Houston.  Throughout most of his life he not only collected objects and specimens, but bought many books.  He gifted these anonymously to the City of Houston.  Within the Public Library, his collection was known as the ‘Circle M Collection.’  The inventories were marked with a circle around the letter M.

Check back soon for more of the 100 most compelling objects from the museum’s collections – we’ll be posting the series throughout 2009 as we celebrate a centennial of science in Houston.

100 Years – 100 Objects: Pre-Columbian obsidian labrets

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.

labrets-4x6This 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 on hmns.org – throughout the year.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, or, in this case, in his lips. These are volcanic glass lip plugs, manufactured by Pre-Columbian people in Mesoamerica. They symbolize the great lengths Pre-Columbian people would go through to look beautiful. Imagine the high degree of craftsmanship required to manufacture these items. Volcanic glass is brittle and thus a challenge to work.
labrets-original-detail-right

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 larger and more detailed images of this rare specimen – as well as the others we’ve posted so far this year – in the photo gallery on hmns.org.

100 Years – 100 Objects : Elbaite (on Quartz)

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 on hmns.org – throughout the year.

main-elbaite-on-quartzTourmaline Queen Mine, San Diego County, California.
North America has produced some extraordinarily beautiful specimens of elbaite, a member of the tourmaline group, but the most admired are the bright red-pink crystals with blue caps found in 1972 at the Tourmaline Queen mine. The 24-cm example pictured here is the finest of the 33 major specimens recovered and is therefore the finest North American tourmaline. The lustrous, lusciously colored, undamaged pair of crystals at the top grow from an undamaged quartz crystal and are accompanied by smaller tourmaline crystals. It has been nicknamed “The Rabbit Ears.”

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 larger and more detailed images of this rare specimen – as well as the others we’ve posted so far this year – in the photo gallery on hmns.org.



100 Years – 100 Objects: Orange Milkweed by Eloise Thompson

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 on hmns.org – throughout the year.

No. 153, Conroe, May 8, 1936
By Eloise Reid Thompson
Watercolor on paper.

eloise-thompson-4x6In 1930, Eloise Reid Thompson began painting wildflowers, mainly flowers of the American Southwest.  She started this project as she traveled with her husband Mr. Wallace C. Thompson, an exploration geologist.  A selection of her wildflower paintings featuring Texas plants was included in the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition, a World’s Fair held at Fair Park in Dallas. 

Mrs. Thompson would pick a sample of the flowering plant and draw and paint it for several days working at her kitchen table.  She collected the plant shown here in Conroe, Texas and immediately painted this picture. 

In 1964, 100 of the paintings were incorporated in to a book entitled “Wildflower Portraits” with selected paintings accompanied by botanical descriptions by Edna Wolf Miner, Ph.D.  Mrs. Thompson gave all of the original paintings in the book to the Museum in 1977.  In 2005 her daughter, Katrina Ladwig, and grand-daughter Laurel gave the Museum a collection of her watercolor and pencil wildflower studies.

The Orange Milkweed or Butterfly-weed (Asclepias tuberosa) shown here is a perennial herb with flowers that vary in color from orange-yellow to orange-red. It attracts many butterflies during June to late August, especially Great Spangled Fritillary.  It can be found growing wild in dry fields and along road sides and ditches.
eloise-thompson-original-detail-center

The Thompson Family has supported the Houston Museum of Natural Science through three generations:  Mr. Thompson served on the Board of Trustees in the early 1960’s and as President of the Board from 1965-66.  Mrs. Thompson was an active member of the Museum’s Guild leading school tours and fundraising for Museum programs.  Katrina followed in her mother’s footsteps, also serving on the Museum’s Guild. Laurel attended museum classes and worked at the Museum in the Astronomy Department throughout high school and college.  After graduation she joined the Museum Staff working in the Burke Baker Planetarium.

Check back soon for more of the 100 most compelling objects from the museum’s collections – we’ll be posting the series throughout 2009 as we celebrate a centennial of science in Houston.