Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History has reopened its permanent mineral exhibit and is inviting visitors to check out the sparkling array of rocks and crystals.
More than 100 specimens, handpicked by Jonathan Hoffman, Dibblee curator of earth science, are on view in the small hall off the museum’s central courtyard.
Fan favorites like the fluorescent minerals and emerald-hued malachite spires are back, accompanied by new items from the museum’s collection.
The new permanent exhibit also features three specimens donated to the museum at the close of last summer’s temporary mineral extravaganza, Rare Earth.
All the specimens are now situated in a new interpretive and design context that puts emphasis on their geologic origin and surprisingly lively nature.
The exhibit takes a cue from the deep time perspective of research by Robert Hazen and other mineralogists.
The title wall leads with the startling fact that the solar system began with only 60 minerals, whereas some 6,000 are known on Earth today, thanks to the dynamic conditions on our planet.
The room’s new vibe leans away from the glass-case-in-a-store feeling of older mineral exhibits. Organic forms and panoramas mask the cases, evoking the fact that minerals come from our planet’s landscapes, not jewelry stores.
Hoffman and the rest of the museum’s exhibit team hope to instill a greater appreciation not only for minerals, but for the lively natural forces that generate them.
“Minerals are often beautiful, but their origin stories are just as impressive,” Hoffman said. “We hope visitors will appreciate how minerals demonstrate the dynamic nature of chemistry; how minerals form, how they change over time, how organisms interact with them, and the roles they play in our society.”
The mineral exhibit, which opened April 22, is included in museum admission. Members are always admitted free. More information at sbnature.org/minerals.