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Visit to the Natural History Museum, London

Last Updated: 19th Oct 2017

By Jolyon Ralph

This is a LIVE report, keep this page loaded for live updates - new images will appear as they are added.

I'm up today for a meeting later here at the museum, it's somewhere I have visited hundreds of times but I have never done a live report from here. So I will guide you round and show some highlights of what they have on display here.

The majority of the display collection is housed in beautiful Victorian display cases arranged systematically

A small section of the topaz case

Nice Russian topaz specimens

Blue apophyllite from japan

Larger pieces are in the side cabinets

25cm aragonite from Austria

Mike Rumsey, who's official title I can never remember but essentially is in charge of the mineral collections here. Will be meeting with him for a bigger chat and some behind the scenes live reporting later.

The galleries have just reopened after a long overdue spring clean. Specimens have been cleaned, rearranged and new bases have been introduced to improve visibility of specimens, a great improvement!

It was really quiet in here until just now, just been invaded by a horde of kids. I assume once all the Pokemon have been caught they'll go :) actually not reality it's good to observe how kids are really interested in the minerals and gems. This is a traditional museum display without animatronics or interaction. Maybe I'm old but I like it that way.

If you have any requests for me to photo while I'm here send me an email or Facebook message. Unfortunately I can't easily see message replies to this live report until I get home. Some Dioptase

Did anyone request Wegscheiderite? No probably not.

Super Urals malachite approx 15cm

Pyrosmalite? Pyrobigite more like. 20cm

Large Lepidolite boulder with rubellite? 60cm from Pala, California

"Wernerite" from Sweden with crystal faces highlighted

One of many calcite cabinets

Calcite from Yorkshire

Classic butterfly twin

More Cumbrian calcite

Calcite polished sphere from Iceland

"Satin spar" calcite from Alston, Cumbria

Allemontite from Canada

There are some cabinets dedicated to minerals from Britain.

Large cuprite

Wood tin


"Horse tooth" siderite from Wheal Maudlin. The theory goes that all of the pieces of this particular material in public and private collections may fit together to form half of a crystal filled vug split up during collecting in the 1800s

This is the other half. Maybe 35-40cm wide


View along the side

There are not many meteorites on display but this large piece presented in 1826 makes a nice display piece.

Copper wires coated with malachite

Boleite cubes from Broken Hill, NSW, Australia

Jordanite crystal from Switzerland, 6cm

Fluorite, etc from Cornwall

Pink fluorites

Atacamite crystals from Australia

The most valuable pieces are in 'the vault'

The Murchison snuff box

And description

Gems in the vault along with associated gem mineral specimens. Each is extremely well documented in the display.

The Medusa

Description. If only all museum displays had such well-written descriptive text

The Latrobe gold nugget, 717g, from the McIvor Mine, Victoria, Australia

The Devonshire emerald, 1384cts, Muzo, Colombia

The Aurora Collection of coloured diamonds.

Siderite 'box epimorph' from Virtuous Lady mine, Devon

Bournonite from Herodsfoot mine, Cornwall

Opal from Australia

Wire silver from Kongsberg, Norway

Gold specimens, unfortunately awaiting a label right now, except for bottom right which is from Hopes Nose, Devon

Back out into the main galleries for a few minutes

Wulfenite from Broken Hill, Australia

A younger Mike

Behind the scenes, reflected light imaging of new minerals, with Chris Stanley

Powder difractometers with nice crystal structure models behind

Mike Rumsey showing Miro Ng and his girlfriend a single crystal X-ray system

This article is linked to the following museum: Natural History Museum (London)

Article has been viewed at least 9174 times.

Discuss this Article

20th Jul 2016 13:01 BSTDavid K. Joyce Expert

Thanks Jolyon! Good memories. Such a great collection and institution. DKJ

20th Jul 2016 13:38 BSTDeborah Nickerson

Just wonderful. Thank you for sharing these.

20th Jul 2016 14:29 BSTMartin Slama Expert

I would love to see more Beryls!

20th Jul 2016 15:52 BSTRob Woodside Manager

Great!!! How did I miss the vault?

20th Jul 2016 16:38 BSTHerwig Pelckmans Expert

Jeez, it's been ages since I have last visited (with the MKA).
Time to plan a new visit!
Thanks for tempting us, Jolyon! ;-)

Cheers, Herwig

20th Jul 2016 16:52 BSTJose Miguel Sola Fdez.

Spectacular virtual tour, a few months ago a friend of Granada, mineral collector was there and gave us a good story. Congratulations on the collection.

José Miguel Sola

20th Jul 2016 17:05 BSTPaul De Bondt Manager

The place is fantastic. I visited it in 1981.
It's a pity to see so few people in the mineral hall today.

Great live report. Thanks Jolyon.

20th Jul 2016 22:50 BSTDan Costian

Thanks, Jolyon, for sharing with us.


20th Jul 2016 23:02 BSTColleen Thomson Expert

Great report as usual, thanks Jolyon! i was here seeing Mike and other friends a few weeks ago, and was equally impressed with the Museum Volunteers (and Robyn, amongst others) who spent weeks diligently and carefully cleaning the display cabinets.
Its a truly wonderful place and one of my favourite galleries and buildings. :-)

21st Jul 2016 23:20 BSTMartin Rich Expert

Thanks Jolyon for this report!
"This is a traditional museum display without animatronics or interaction. Maybe I'm old but I like it that way." This words are speaking also for me.

22nd Jul 2016 14:21 BSTAntal Erdei

Fantastic journey, thank You! Erdei Antal

23rd Jul 2016 02:18 BSTPeter Tarassoff Expert

I had admired the specimens at the museum during a number of visits, but that was a long time ago. It's nice to see some of them again. Nice photos, thanks for sharing them. But considering that the displays have been 'renewed' it's a bit surprising to see the locality for a dioptase specimen still given as "French Congo".

Peter Tarassoff

23rd Jul 2016 19:17 BSTJohn Montgomery Expert

A truly wonderful museum. Even better when I had you as a personal guide Jolyon and Mike showing me the back rooms. A memory I will long cherish. Thanks again

23rd Jul 2016 22:17 BSTJean-François Lanoë

Thank you for this visit to this remarkable institution

28th Jul 2016 17:48 BSTRichard Gunter Expert

The renewal might also have changed the name "allemontite" since it is no longer recognized.

29th Jul 2016 06:50 BSTJoel Dyer

Really interesting article, and an excellent plus convenient way to enjoy some of those luscious samples and their stories, from afar.

4th Sep 2019 19:44 BSTLuca Baralis Expert

I visited the museum yesterday. Sadly I didn't see most of the specimens show in the article. May be I missed something, sure I missed the main gallery in Jolyon's pictures.
More sadly I've to remark that I found some showcase heavily dusty, a couple with dirty glass, and many very badly lightened.
Some specimens in exhibition was really WOW!!! specimens, others, well I expected something better.
Very nice the gems collection in exhibition.
Ending, it worth the visit, but I felt the difference of care comparing with the paleonthological section.  

4th Sep 2019 20:50 BSTJolyon Ralph Founder

It sounds like you only saw the gallery in the Earth Sciences wing, and not the main systematic mineral display in the main building. 

4th Sep 2019 23:39 BSTLuca Baralis Expert

Yes, I'm afraid you are right. And here a lesson comes: before you go somewhere, deeply search info on Mindat. ;-)

5th Sep 2019 01:53 BSTLawrie Berthelsen (2)

Luca, I have been there twice, and only ever saw the very poor gallery display. Even asking attendants where the mineral display was, I was only ever directed to the gallery display. I had no idea there was a systematic mineral display until I saw Jolyon's report.

5th Sep 2019 02:58 BSTKevin Conroy Manager

I'm sorry to hear that the staff didn't know where both mineral displays are, and equally as sorry to hear that the lighting issue hasn't been addressed.   I know that there have been complaints about the lighting ever since the gallery opened.   It's a real shame because I know that there are some fantastic specimens there, and they can't be enjoyed in the present environment.

By the way (and it's been several years since I've been there), but just inside the entrance of the systematic display on the left side was a large blue fluorite with "calcite" from Southern Illinois.  I talked with one of the senior staff members and told them that this was actually a VERY good benstonite on fluorite from the Minerva #1 Mine!   Hopefully the label has been revised.

5th Sep 2019 23:08 BSTEd Clopton Expert

I'm glad to know the systematic hall is still in place.  Years ago I read the dreadful reviews of the new gallery and had the impression that it had replaced the systematic collection.  What a relief!  If I ever get to the UK again, I will be sure to pay a nice, long visit--and one to the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro, too, which was mostly closed for renovations on my only other visit there around 1990.
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