1976 May 21 - 2017 October 26
The Morgan Memorial Hall of Gems at the American Museum of Natural History exhibited specimens from the Museum's collection of more than 100,000 gems and minerals along with its companion hall, the Harry Frank Guggenheim Hall of Minerals. It opened as part of a three-part exhibition with the Arthur Ross Hall of Meteorites and the Morgan Memorial Hall of Gems on May 21, 1976. The new gem and mineral halls directly replaced the old Morgan Memorial Hall of Minerals and Gems. D.M. Vincent Manson, consultant to the Museum’s Department of Mineral Sciences, was the curator for both halls, which were under the purview Museum’s Department of Mineral Science and Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences (1, p. 14; 2; 3).
Planning for the gem and mineral halls began in 1968 and construction began in May 1973. The new Morgan Hall and the Guggenheim Hall occupied a space on the first floor that measured 65’ x 160’. They were, notably at the time of their opening, air-conditioned. The halls were designed to mimic a cave-like atmosphere and had earth-colored carpeting on both the floor and the walls. According to a 1976 Museum press release, the part of the purpose of the new gem and mineral halls “to display richness, variety and dramatic beauty of earth materials and to explain the properties of these materials, the profound subterranean forces that produced them, and their significance to human societies throughout history (3).”
Sponsors for the building of the hall were the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, George F. Baker Trust, the Cerro Fund and Corporation, Mrs. Catherine Cook, Christian Hohenlohe, the Phelps Dodge Foundation, the Arthur Ross Foundation, St. Joe Minerals Corporation, and Texas Gulf, Inc. (2)
The hall featured an array of precious and ornamental stones—uncut, polished, and gems in elaborate pieces of jewelry—as well as organic materials such as coral and amber that are prized as gems. The specimens in the hall were organized by mineral group, including diamond, sapphire and ruby, emerald and other beryls, opal, garnet, and many others. Rare and unusual gems, synthetic gemstones, and precious metals such as gold, platinum, and silver are also on display. Several exhibit cases featured decorative objects and jewelry spanning three millennia from various cultures (4).
Highlights included (4):
*The Star of India
*The Midnight Star
*The DeLong Ruby
*The Patricia Emerald
*A re-created gem pocket modeled after one found in the mountains of San Diego County, California in which pegmatite rock holds seven types of large crystals, including tourmaline, beryl, spodumene, quartz, and albite.
The Morgan Memorial Hall of Gems and the Harry Frank Guggenheim Hall of Minerals closed on October 26, 2017 to be replaced by the Roberto and Allison Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals (3).
This is a condensed summary of the exhibition. For additional information, see Sources and/or Related Resources.
Content negotiation supports the following types: