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From Physical to Virtual Museum

Last Updated: 16th Nov 2016

By Joel Dyer

These Challenging times

Many of us Mindaters are familiar with a sad current trend. I'm speaking of the closing of many museums housing valuable and fascinating mineral and gemstone samples, and the tightening of funds of too few museums that are allowed to survive. It is a shame that superb and often rare samples collected even over a century ago are sometimes coldly chucked out of museums, college and school collections, due to a lack of funds and lack of sympathy from governing bodies. Who knows how many priceless, beautiful natural creations and fine cabinets have been destroyed, or are weeping under waste heaps in remote, forlorn corners of the World.

Dr. Kari Kinnunen at the now closed Mineral Cabinet Museum

Arpeneum Collection in Helsinki

Around two and a half years ago in 2014, a superb and historically important mineral museum in Helsinki, the Mineral Cabinet, was closed. Some bureacracts wanted to recycle the architectonically beautiful Arpeneum building's premises for office uses, at the same time dismantling and discarding many of the priceless display cabinets from late 1800's. Many rare mineral samples were also lost forever in the process. Later, a large part of the collection fortunately found a new home in of of Helsinki University's facilites elsewhere. Sadly, I myself couldn't make it to the Arpeneum in time before it's closure, due to the long distance and other matters.
Link to the Arpeneum Special Issue of Mineralia magazine (in Finnish):

Snippet from "360 degree virtual view" of the GTK Geo Exhibition

GTK Geo Exhibition

In anticipation of the Geological Survey of Finland's Headquarters in Espoo moving to smaller facilites in the near future, the Visitor Center's valuable collection of minerals and gemstones will have to find a new home. The Geonäyttely or GEO Exhibition houses among others a small piece of lunar rock fetched during the Apollo XVII expedition, Finland's oldest rock type of some 3500 Ma, and many other fine mineral and rock samples.
The link to the "360 degree view" of the Geo exhibition:
The "mini-museum" also contains a 800-piece gemstone collection, donated by the renown jeweller Tauno Paronen (1919–1992). The moving to new location of GTK and these collections are due to happen within a couple of years.

Preserving Collections for Future Generations

A few geologists at GTK were worried about what will happen to the valuable mineral and gemstone samples currently residing in the Geonäyttely premises, and selection procedures to secure a new, safe storage place for the samples have been carried out.
Financial contraints in many public walks of life are not likely to decrease, and there is constant pressure on museums and facilities, even health services here in Fennoscandia.
Surely there was some way to ensure that the public will be able to enjoy the many fine samples owned by the Geological Survey of Finland in the future as well?
Dr. Kari Kinnunen, a geologist-gemmologist and senior researchist at GTK, happened to come upon a photo collection of minerals in a European mainland collection some years ago. In this virtual library, an application for rotating sample pictures was successfully used.
Kari, together with GTK's superb photographer and IT Service Planner Jari Väätäinen (M.Sc.), became intrigued by an idea of creating a Virtual Museum, containing important samples from GTK's collections around Finland.

Järi Väätäinen spinning his magic

Spinning off Virtualisation Plans

A couple of years ago, Kari and Jari, the perfect Duo to implement a Virtual Museum, started to search for suitable project tools and software for the virtualisation project. This year, managerial go-ahead to implement the Virtual Museum was granted, which is perhaps a bit of a surprise.
At first, system tests and demos were carried out using a microscope's rotation stage for taking "spin pictures". The beginning was slow, as taking 100 pictures of selected samples by manually rotating the stage for each snap was cumbersome. The solution to the problem was to obtain a commercial rotation stage system called Packshot Spin. This is a software-driven rotation system no doubt known to some Mindaters. Although the system is a bit pricey, I'm told the investment certainly was worth it.

Spectrolite Scarabees by Juhani Hakala

Spinelli (Spinel) – A Glimmering Virtual Showcase

This Autumn, the first efforts of Kari and Jari and their employer GTK bear fruit. A select, growing collection of samples are now viewable online, at . Some of the virtual museum's pictures are rotatable, mainly those deemed to be interesting enough. Other pictures are simply zoomable.
GTK's Spinelli service is actually one of the first public museum collections to go online that use rotatable sample pictures, and I take my hat off for this great effort and the hard work. It is important that tax-payers and mineral or gemstones hobbyists are offered free access to many important collections at least virtually, if many samples are to be – or are already – boxed up in some dark, storage room accessible to only the few, occasional researchist. I heartily recommend, even urge more museums to follow this example, until it is perhaps too late.

Eskolaite crystal in matrix

In a world of increasing illiteracy of the printed word and of virtual vs. real face-to-face "socializing", we all should think about where we're heading, and if maybe we can each do our little bit to bring Natural Sciences and fascinating artwork by Mother Nature into the consciousness of a larger population, of future generations.

Cr-diopside picture from GTK Spinelli gallery

Article has been viewed at least 1831 times.


Great initiative , I look forward to the times when we all have our specimens published , although I feel Video is probably going to be overtaking this spinning method now that we can already create descent video's with our phones.
Technology will further improve to the point that we can simply use a search engine and all text is automatically translated.

Ed Richard
24th Nov 2016 1:16am
Just try something like this

All wee need is a better way to capture the metadata (like mindat does) and a better way to display that.

Ed Richard
24th Nov 2016 1:17am
HI Ed,

Thanks for the feedback & ideas. No doubt the GTK staff will notice your input, and if not, I'll tip them off.

Joel Dyer
25th Nov 2016 9:14am
Interesting article Joel

John Montgomery
29th Nov 2016 1:49pm

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