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A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum

Last Updated: 16th Nov 2017

By Larry Maltby


The A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum at the Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Michigan has a long and interesting history. In 1861 the Michigan Mining School in Houghton was established by an act of the Michigan State Legislature. For various reasons, it did not open until 1885. Fortunately, this was in time to support some of the most productive years of copper mining in the Keweenaw. It became the repository for several of the finest mineral collections that were put together during this period. These include the Reeder, Hubbard and Gabriel collections. In fact, the Reeder name became synonymous with high quality. Sometimes, when Keweenaw collectors would see a very good copper specimen, they would exclaim, “Wow, that’s Reeder quality”.

The School went through a series of name changes until being named Michigan Technological University in 1963.

What started as the “museum collection” was named the Geological-Mineralogical Museum in 1902. Arthur Edmund Seaman was the first curator and the museum took his name in 1932. Many collectors referred to the museum simply as “The Seaman”. Finally, in 1990 the A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum was honored by being designated as the official mineralogical museum of Michigan, a tribute to the very fine and complete collections of Michigan minerals.

The A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum, Robinson-Rann 2012

A. E. Seaman 1858 - 1937, Professor of geology 1899 - 1936
A. E. Seaman (right) in Alaska 1905

Dedication of the new A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum, August 4, 2011

A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum

For the past 37 years the museum collections resided in the Electrical Energy Resources Center located in the middle of a congested part of the campus. Visitor parking was hard to find and then there was a hundred yard walk through throngs of students some of which were whizzing by on bicycles. Upon entering the building and taking the elevator to the fifth floor, the door would open to a beautiful mineral museum that was well worth the effort.

The new facility shown above has remedied the parking problems. There is ample parking right in front of the new “stand alone” building and the displays are better than ever!

Ribbon cutting at the A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum, August 4, 2011

Dr. George W. Robinson and his wife Susan

Doctor George W. Robinson, curator of the museum over the last 17 years, rose to the task of packing the entire collection of thousands of specimens for the move to the new facility. Then each one needed to be unpacked and selections made for the new displays. With a big job comes a big opportunity. Not many curators in the world get the chance to completely reorganize such a significant mineral museum.

Susan Robinson, an accomplished artist with a keen interest in minerals, spent many hours assisting George in this effort. She writes articles featuring various mineral artists from all over the world for the Rocks and Minerals Magazine and is also a helpful contributor to the discussion pages on Mindat.

The gift shop and the entrance to the Thomas D. Shaffner Hall

The Beauty of Minerals

Just inside the entrance to the Thomas D. Shaffner Hall are several displays that are designed to attract the interest of the casual visitor and beckon them to see more. The cases show large specimens with vivid color and interesting form that accomplish this goal very nicely. The serious collector knows immediately that he or she is in for a treat!

Just inside the Hall is a large sheet copper from the White Pine Mine, White Pine, Michigan.

A case featuring minerals noted for their vivid colors
Another case with minerals of bright colors

A case showing the color and form of minerals

Minerals of the Copper Range (Michigan)

Copper, Central Mine, Keweenaw Co. Michigan

Copper Display
Copper Display

Copper, Phoenix Mine, Keweenaw Co. Michigan
Copper, Superior Mine, Houghton Co. Michigan

Copper, Minesota Mine, Rockland, Ontonagon Co. Michigan
Copper, Franklin Mine, Hancock, Houghton Co. Michigan

Copper, Rockland, Ontonagon Co. Michigan

Copper Skull, Calumet and Hecla Mine, Calumet, Houghton Co. Michigan
Copper Skull, Calumet and Hecla Mine, Calumet, Houghton Co. Michigan

Copper (Pipe amygdules in basalt) Ash Bed Flow, Keweenaw Co. Michigan

Copper, Caledonia Mine, Ontonagon Co. Michigan

This 850-pound piece of native copper is typical of the large masses encountered during mining. The angular impressions are molds of calcite crystals that were once present. There is also a small aggregate of native silver at the top right of the specimen.

Copper, Phoenix Mine, Keweenaw Co. Michigan
Copper, Franklin Jr. Mine, Hancock, Houghton Co. Michigan

Copper with calcite, Resolute Mine, Keweenaw Co. Michigan
Old label for the "Resolute Copper"

The “Resolute Copper” shown above, is a recent acquisition for the Museum. It is thought to be a very old piece and is the only known high quality specimen from the Resolute Mine. It resided in the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia for many years. It came to the Museum through the efforts of Doctor Robert Lavinsky and a very generous donor.

The Museum continues to add to its major copper collection.

Copper, Osceola Mine, Calumet, Houghton Co. Michigan
Cooper, Osceola Mine, Calumet, Houghton Co. Michigan

Silver, Cliff Mine, Keweenaw Co. Michigan

Silver, Michigan Mine. Ontonagon Co. Michigan
Silver on copper, Calumet & Hecla Mine, Kearsarge, Michigan

Copper and silver, half-breed, Lake Superior Copper District, Michigan
Copper and silver, half-breed, Kearsarge lode, Houghton Co. Michigan

Copper Presentation "Fan" Lake Superior Copper District

(Above) The pure native copper found in the Keweenaw was resistant to blasting. The rock around the copper would shatter but the masses of copper would often have to be removed with hammer and chisel. Some of the miners would demonstrate their skill at this by cutting copper “fans”. These would be presented as gifts to various dignitaries. Sometimes a brass plate would be attached to the base of the pedestal that recorded the name of the miner, the date cut, the name of the mine and the level where the copper occurred.

(Below) This ingot was cast in 1865 with copper from the Franklin, Pewabic, and Hancock Mines. It was salvaged from the S. S. Pewabic shipwreck in Lake Huron between 1913 and 1915.

Copper Ingot, Pewabic Lode

Copper in calcite, Franklin Mine, Hancock, Michigan
Copper in calcite, Quincy Mine, Hancock, Michigan

Copper in calcite, Quincy Mine, Hancock, Michigan

Calcite, Quincy Mine, Hancock, Michigan

Calcite, Lake Superior Copper District, Michigan
Calcite, Phoenix Mine, Keweenaw Co. Michigan

Calcite on copper, Copper Falls Mine, Keweenaw Co. Michigan
Cuprite in calcite, Allouez Mine, Keweenaw Co. Michigan

Datolite display

Datolite, Isle Royal, Michigan

Datolite, Mesnard Mine, Houghton Co. Michigan
Datolite, Franklin Mine, Houghton Co. Michigan

Datolite, Keweenaw Point, Keweenaw Co. Michigan

Datolite, Pewabic Lode, Houghton Co. Michigan
Datolite, Centennial Mine, Houghton Co. Michigan

Weathered agate, Manitou Island, Keweenaw Co. Michigan
Polished agate, Keweenaw Point, Keweenaw Co.Michigan

Minerals of the Iron Range (Michigan)

Banded Iron Formation, Negaunee, Michigan

Hematite, Norrie Mine, Ironwood, Michigan
Goethite, Cleveland Mine, Ishpeming, Michigan

Goethite, Imperial Mine, Michigamme, Michigan
Hematite, Iron Mountain, Michigan

Barite on Manganite, Lucy Mine, Negaunee , Michigan

Hematite (Tulip ore) Ispeming, Michigan
Cryptomelane, Newport-Bonnie Mine, Ironwood, Michigan

Other Minerals

Labradorite, Bekity, Madagascar
Kyanite, Barro Do Salinas, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Amethyst, Ellis Jones Mine, Due West, South Carolina
Agate, Chihuahua, Mexico

Quartz, Idarado Mine, Ouray, Colorado
Calcite in amethyst geode, Rio Grande Do Sul, Brazil

Galena on fluorite, Denton Mine, Hardin Co. Illinois
Calcite with hydrocarbon, Denton Mine, Hardin Co. Illinois

Galena, Kenora Mine, Cardin, Oklahoma
Pyrrhotite, Dal' negorsk, Russia

Quartz, Minas Gerais, Brazil
Charoite and Tinaksite, Charo River, Murum Massif, Yakutia, Russia

Sulfur, Sgrigento Sicily, Italy
Baryte and calcite, Cary Mine, Hurley Wisconsin

Fluorapatite, Yates Uranium Mine, Otter Lake, Quebec
Chalcocite, Flambeau Mine, Ladysmith, Wisconsin

Calcite on Dolomite, Sweetwater Mine, Reynolds Co. Missouri
Calcite on Dolomite, Joplin, Missouri

Chalcedony, Atlas Mountains, Morocco
Variscite, Little Green Monster Mine, Fairfield, Utah

Baryte, Juloani Huancavelica, Peru
Biotite on calcite, Namib Desert, Swakopmund, Namibia

Dr. George W. Robinson Retires

After 17 years as curator of the A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum, Dr. George Robinson has retired. His extensive background in mineralogy is well documented in the Who’s Who in Mineral Names column in the May-June 2013 issue of the Rocks and Minerals Magazine. Like so many others, he became interested in minerals at a very young age but unlike many others he pursued his interest to the attainment of a doctoral degree at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario. He was a student, a teacher, a field collector and a curator of minerals. He is a professional and at the same time, a friend to the amateur collector. We wish him well.

Dr. George Robinson's retirement, June 5, 2013

Dr. Ted Bornhorst (left), Museum Director and Professor of Geology, assists George in cutting the first piece of cake.
The first piece of cake goes to Susan Robinson. The smile on George's face says it all. He will be in the field collecting minerals in no time!

To view a supplement to this article showing another 105 mineral photos, select the following link.


This article is linked to the following museum: A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum (Michigan)

Article has been viewed at least 10207 times.


Awesome article, Larry!!!
George and Susan will be sorely missed in the Copper Country.

Paul Brandes
2nd Aug 2013 1:21am
Absolutely fabulous! Probably my favorite photo article ever on mindat! Great job and congratulations to Dr. Robinson---he has been an invaluable asset to MTU. I can't wait to visit!


Dana Slaughter
2nd Aug 2013 1:49am
Very nice article,thanks for the notice on the new museum. Excellent photos, several even made me startle myself with an audible WOW!

John Oostenryk
3rd Aug 2013 12:45am
Thanks for the comments Guy’s, the MTU administration along with some very generous donors, did a great job of preserving a wonderful mineral museum.

Larry Maltby
3rd Aug 2013 11:03am
Great article Larry! Thanks for putting this together.
It is indeed a wonderful place to visit.

John A. Jaszczak
3rd Aug 2013 11:46pm
I had to go through this again. I haven't visited the Seaman in many years and have to make plans to visit and do a little collecting in the area. That tulip ore hematite is absolutely incredible and I've never seen anything like it. Given a choice of that specimen or a choice Sweet Home rhodo I'd take the hematite! Thanks again.

Dana Slaughter
4th Aug 2013 2:16am
Yes indeed, great article...thank you.

John Montgomery
5th Aug 2013 9:17pm
Great article!

Frank Ruehlicke
6th Aug 2013 6:47am
Here is a link to some documentation of the museum's move from Michigan Tech's main campus to its new purpose-built
building on the south side of campus.

John A. Jaszczak
10th Aug 2013 8:50pm
Thanks for the link, John. It really illustrates what a huge job the move was.
It took a lot of dedicated people to get this done.

Larry Maltby
10th Aug 2013 9:56pm
Fantastic article Larry! A visit to this museum is a must for any collector visiting the area. It is easy to locate, has great parking, and is highly accessible. My visit last September was the first time I saw the new location, and I was very impressed. It is fantastic observing minerals in such a well designed and relaxed atmosphere. I plan to visit when I am there again in the next couple months.

I would like to wish Dr. Robinson well on his retirement. I have communicated with him on several occasions throughout my short time collecting, both via email and in person, and he has always been gracious and accommodating, even to a novice collector that probably has way too many basic questions. His books and writings are a staple among my reference material, and his contributions to mineralogy are incredible.

Scott Sadlocha
16th Aug 2013 6:35pm

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