American Museum of Natural History. Morgan Memorial Hall of Minerals and Gems.

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Exist Dates

1890, approximately - 1974, approximately

Biographical or Historical Note

abstract
Permanent exhibition. Opened approximately 1890 and closed approximately 1974. Located Floor 4, Section 2 (mineral collection, Hall No. 404) and Floor 4, Section WC (gem collection, Hall No. 403) from approximately 1901-1911, located on Floor 4, Section 4 (mineral and gem collections) from 1911-1974 (1, 1890, p. 9; 1, 1910, p. 17; 2, 1911, p. 73; 2, 1920, p. 99: 2, 1928, p. 90; 9). The Morgan Memorial Hall of Minerals and Gems at the American Museum of Natural History exhibited the Museum’s collections of minerals and gems.

The Morgan Memorial Hall of Minerals and Gems at the American Museum of Natural History exhibited the Museum’s collections of minerals and gems. Curators and associates in charge of the hall and the Museum departments overseeing the hall—the Department of Mineralogy and Conchology, the Department of Mineralogy, the Department of Geology and Paleontology, the Department of Geology and Mineralogy, and the Department of Mineral Sciences—have included L.P. Gratacap, Herbert P. Whitlock, Frederick H. Pough, Brian H. Mason, D.M. Vincent Manson, and George F. Kunz. Various gifts contributed to the continuously growing collections of minerals and gems, part of which were included in the exhibition collections. The rate of growth in these collections prompted continuous reevaluating and remodeling in the hall as well as curators’ requests for more space. Early layouts of the hall presented specimens in wall and desk cases and included specimens in drawers underneath the desk cases. Specimens were often accompanied by maps and photographs and were arranged by chemical classification in most iterations of the hall. In most iterations of its name, both before and after the mineral and gem collections were exhibited together, J. Pierpont Morgan’s name was attached.

Major collections in this hall included (3, 1922):

*The Bailey Collection

*The Tiffany Collection of Gems

*The Spang Collection

*The Bement Collection

*The William Boyce Thompson Collection

In 1890, J. Pierpont Morgan donated the Tiffany Collection of Gems to the Museum. At the time “an appropriate case” was being constructed to exhibit the collection in a new hall connected with the Geological Department (1, 1890-1891, p. 9). The Spang Collection was donated to the Museum in 1891, and desk cases were constructed to exhibit those specimens (1, 1891, p. 9-10). A collection of azurites, malachites, stalactites and stalagmites donated by Copper Queen Consolidated Mining Company went on display in Mineral Hall in 1895 (1, 1895, p. 14-15). The Bement Collection, gifted by J. Pierpont Morgan, contained about 12,000 specimens of minerals and meteorites and went on display in the Mineral Hall in 1901. To accommodate the Bement Collection, the remaining shells that had been on exhibit in the Mineral Hall were moved to the fifth floor. The Bement Collection was originally arranged in the halls according to Dana's System of Mineralogy (1, 1901, 12-13).

In 1911, the minerals moved into the space formerly occupied by the Mexican Hall. The room occupied by the Mexican Hall is repeatedly named in Mineralogy Department Annual Reports as the desired space for the Morgan Hall starting in 1906 (4). The gems stayed in the west corridor, an alcove which also adjoined the new space (2, 1914, p. 96). The renovation and move also saw the commission of the “shovel-pit” painting by Albert Operti (1, 1911, 40-41).

In 1922, under the direction of curator Herbert P. Whitlock, the Mineral Hall was remodeled with the collections (the Morgan Gem Collection) from the Gem Room (or Gem Hall) being incorporated into the same large space as the General Collection of Minerals. The work included groined arch treatment of the ceiling, the encasing of the columns in marble, converting them into piers, and the closing of the lower portions of the windows on the south side. The remodeling was funded by George F. Baker, who presented the renovation under its new official name, the Morgan Hall of Minerals and Gems, in honor of J. Pierpont Morgan. Tablets indicating the dedication of the hall by Baker for Morgan and the names of other donors were installed (1, 1921, p. 60-61; 1, 1941, p. 8). Members of the hall’s advisory committee around this time included George F. Baker, Jr., Junius Spencer Morgan, Jr., and Roswell Miller (1, 1927, p. xxi).

Post-1922 renovation additions included (1, 1934, p. 8; 1, 1935, p. 9; 1, 1937, p. 11; 1, 1940, p. 8; 1, 1954, p. 38; 1, 1958, p. 38):

*Exhibit on fluorescence with a General Electric Nico tube from the New York Mineralogical Club to give the specimens an ultraviolet glow, 1934

*Mural triptych paintings in Will S. Taylor, 1930s

*Rock crystal sphere with a device containing rotating disks of colored glass called a “Cosmic Color Mixer” in an effect advertised as “Crystalight”, 1937

*Largest topaz in the world, as an addition to the William Boyce Thompson Collection, 1940

*Carved jade from a bequest by William Boyce Thompson, 1958

During the Second World War, famous gems including the Star of India, DeLong Ruby, Betts fire-opals, and the Morgenthau blue topaz were stored in a secret vault with other Museum valuables such as the objects from the Drummond Room, a Hawaiian feather cloak, a Mayan wooden door lintel dating from 800 A.D., tattooed heads from New Zealand, and Aztec gold jewelry (5).

On October 29, 1964 the Morgan Hall was targeted by thieves Jack “Murph the Surf” Murphy, Allen Kuhn, and Roger Clark in an infamous heist. The trio lifted 22 items including the Star of India, the Midnight Star, the DeLong Ruby, and the Eagle Diamond. Murphy, Kuhn, and Clark were eventually caught and many of the gems returned. The DeLong Ruby was ransomed by John D. MacArthur and returned to the Museum. While about 70% of the material stolen was recovered, the Eagle Diamond, along with some less-valuable specimens, was never returned. As the burglary was aided by the failure of the alarm system, the Museum modernized its protective systems and added to security to the Morgan Hall and other areas (1, 1964 p. 6). After the heist, the Morgan Hall reopened in 1965. After its return, Star of India had been on exhibit in the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall earlier that year (6, 7).

The hall was closed again in 1967 as construction of the new John Lindsley Hall of Earth History blocked the entrance (8). The Morgan Hall reopened on February 5, 1969 and was to remain open for about year before closing for its own renovations, but the hall appears in the 1972 exhibition guide to the Museum. The plans resulted in new halls on the first floor the Morgan Memorial Hall of Gems and the Harry Frank Guggenheim Hall of Minerals, which opened on May 21, 1976.

This is a condensed summary of the exhibition. For additional information, see Sources and/or Related Resources.

Sources

    (1) American Museum of Natural History. Annual Reports. New York: American Museum of Natural History, 1890-1964/1965.
    (2) General Guide to the Exhibition Halls of the American Museum of Natural History. New York: American Museum of Natural History, 1911-1958.
    (3) Gratacap, Louis P. The collection of minerals [Guide Leaflet no. 4]. New York: American Museum of Natural History. 1902.
    (4) American Museum of Natural History. Annual Reports, Departmental. [Department of Mineralogy Annual Report]. 1906. DR 098. American Museum of Natural History Library.
    (5) American Museum of Natural History. Press Release. "World Famous Gems Returned from Wartime Vaults to Museum." January 27, 1947. DR 101. American Museum of Natural History Library.
    (6) American Museum of Natural History. Press Release. "Spot Announcements." May 8, 1965. DR 101. American Museum of Natural History Library.
    (7) American Museum of Natural History. Press Release. "Spot Announcements." May 19, 1965. DR 101. American Museum of Natural History Library.
    (8) American Museum of Natural History. Press Release. "Morgan Hall Reopens to Public at the American Museum of Natural History; Star of India Among Gems on Display." February 5, 1969. DR 101. American Museum of Natural History Library.
    (9) American Museum of Natural History. Press Release. "American Museum of Natural History to Design All-New Halls of Gems and Minerals." October 2017, accessed October 12, 2018, https://www.amnh.org/about-the-museum/press-center/amnh-to-design-all-new-halls-of-gems-and-minerals

Chronology

  • 1890, approximately: J. Pierpont Morgan donates the Tiffany Collection to the Museum and cases for the display of the collection are constructed.
  • 1891: The Spang Collection is donated to the Museum and cases are constructed for display in the Mineral Hall.
  • 1895: Azurites, malachites, stalactites and stalagmites donated by Copper Queen Consolidated Mining Company go on display in Mineral Hall.
  • 1901: The Bement Collection, gifted by J. Pierpont Morgan and containing about 12,000 specimens of minerals and meteorites, goes on display in the Mineral Hall. To accommodate the Bement Collection, the remaining shells on exhibit in the Mineral Hall move to the fifth floor. The Bement Collection is arranged according to Dana's System of Mineralogy.
  • 1911: The minerals move into the space formerly occupied by the Mexican Hall. The gems stay in the west corridor, which also adjoins the new space.
  • 1922: The Mineral Hall is remodeled with the collections (the Morgan Gem Collection) from the Gem Room (or Gem Hall) being incorporated into the same large space as the General Collection of Minerals. The work includes groined arch treatment of the ceiling, the encasing of the columns in marble, converting them into piers, and the closing of the lower portions of the windows on the south side. The remodeling is funded by George F. Baker who presented the renovation under its new name, the Morgan Hall of Minerals and Gems, in honor of J. Pierpont Morgan.
  • 1934 - 1940: New additions to the hall include an exhibit on fluorescence with a General Electric Nico tube from the New York Mineralogical Club to give the specimens an ultraviolet glow, mural triptych paintings in Will S. Taylor, a rock crystal sphere with a device containing rotating disks of colored glass called a “Cosmic Color Mixer” in an effect advertised as “Crystalight”, and, as an addition to the William Boyce Thompson Collection, the largest topaz in the world.
  • 1941, approximately - 1945, approximately: During the Second World War, famous gems including the Star of India, DeLong Ruby, Betts fire-opals, and the Morgenthau blue topaz are stored in a secret vault with other Museum valuables such as object from the Drummond Room, a Hawaiian feather cloak, a Mayan wooden door lintel dating from 800 A.D., tattooed heads from New Zealand, and Aztec gold jewelry.
  • 1958: The carved jades, part of the William Boyce Thompson bequest, are installed in the hall along with an exhibit of uranium minerals.
  • 1964 October 29: The Morgan Hall is targeted by thieves Jack “Murph the Surf” Murphy, Allen Kuhn, and Roger Clark in an infamous heist, which include 22 items such as the Star of India, the Midnight Star, the DeLong Ruby, and the Eagle Diamond.
  • 1965: The Star of India goes on display in the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall after its return. After the return of all the recovered gems, the hall reopens with those gems on display.
  • 1967: The hall closes due the construction of the Hall of Earth History, which blocks the entrance to the Morgan Hall.
  • 1968: Planning for new halls of minerals and gems begins.
  • 1969 February 5: The hall reopens.
  • 1973 May: Construction begins on new halls of mineral and gems on the first floor of the Museum.
  • 1974, approximately: The original Morgan Hall on the fourth floor permanently closes.
  • 1976 May 21: The Morgan Memorial Hall of Gems and the Harry Frank Guggenheim Hall of Minerals open on the first floor of the Museum, replacing the original Morgan Memorial Hall of Gems.

Terms

place
New YorkExternal link
AMNH: Section 2, Floor 4 from approximately 1890-1911 (minerals); Section WC, Floor 4 (West Corridor) (gems); Section 4, Floor 4 from 1911-1974, approximately

Related Corporate, Personal, and Family Names

"Black Orloff" Diamond (Exhibition)
associated dates: 1951 March 19-1951 April 2
American Museum of Natural History. Arthur Ross Hall of Meteorites.
Opened at the same time as the Harry Frank Guggenheim Hall of Minerals and the Morgan Memorial Hall of Gems. Meteorites were also displayed in the former Morgan Memorial Hall of Minerals and Gems (approximately 1890-1974), which new halls of mineral and gems directly replaced.
American Museum of Natural History. Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences.
Related department 
American Museum of Natural History. Department of Geology and Mineralogy.
Related department 
American Museum of Natural History. Department of Geology and Paleontology.
Related department 
American Museum of Natural History. Department of Mineral Sciences.
Related department 
American Museum of Natural History. Department of Mineralalogy and Conchology.
Related department 
American Museum of Natural History. Department of Mineralalogy.
Related department 
American Museum of Natural History. Harry Frank Guggenheim Hall of Minerals.
Replaced Morgan Memorial Hall of Minerals and Gems with companion hall Morgan Memorial Hall of Gems
American Museum of Natural History. John Lindsley Hall of Earth History.
Construction of this hall blocked entry to the Morgan Hall of Minerals and Gems, 1967-1969
American Museum of Natural History. Morgan Memorial Hall of Gems.
Replaced Morgan Memorial Hall of Minerals and Gems with companion hall Harry Frank Guggenheim Hall of Minerals
Baker, George F. (George Fisher) 1840-1931
Donor, in memory of Pierpont Morgan (1, 1921, p. 60).
Cockcroft-Schettler, Elisabeth
Donor, emerald (2, 1935, p. 131).
DeLong, Edith Haggin
Donor, DeLong Ruby (2, 1939, p. 31).
Gratacap, L. P. (Louis Pope) 1851-1917
associated dates: 1890-1917

Curator, Minerals and Gems (1, 1916, p. 61).
Industrial Diamonds (Exhibition)
associated dates: 1949 April 15-1949 June 12
Kunz, George Frederick 1856-1932
Research Associate in Gems, made "great contributions" to hall (1, 1932, p. 115).
Lanier, Charles Day
Donor, Blue Chalcedony statuette (2, 1928, p. 107).
Manson, D.M. Vincent
associated dates: 1964-1974

Assistant Curator, Museum Department of Mineralogy; began plans for new halls
Mason, Brian (Brian Harold), 1917-2009
associated dates: 1953-1964

Chairman and curator, Museum Department of Geology and Mineralogy
Miller, Roswell
Trustee, Committee for Minerology and Morgan Hall (1, 1927, p. xxi).
Mineralogical Stamp Collection (Exhibition)
associated dates: 1947 May 17-1947 May 25
Morgan, J. Pierpont (John Pierpont) 1837-1913
Museum founder, Trustee, donor, hall named for him.
Morgan, Junius Spencer 1892-1960
Trustee, Committee for Minerology and Morgan Hall (1, 1927, p. xxi).
Morgenthan, M.I.
Donor, blue topaz from Japan (2, 1939, p. 30).
Operti, Albert 1852-1927
Museum artist, shovel pit painting (1, 1911, p. 41).
Pough, Frederick H.
associated dates: 1941-1953

Curator, Museum Department of Geology and Mineralogy
Raw Materials of the Atomic Bomb (Exhibition)
associated dates: 1945 August 10-unknown
Russian Easter Eggs (Exhibition)
associated dates: 1955 April 2-1955 May 2
Taylor, William S. 1882-1968
Museum artist, mural triptych paintings (1, 1935 p. 9)
Titanium: The New "Cinderella Metal" (Exhibition)
associated dates: 1950 August 24-unknown
Uncut Minerals in Jewelry (Exhibition)
associated dates: 1948 November 30-1949 January
Whitlock, Herbert P.
associated dates: 1918-1914

Curator for hall (1, 1927, p. xxi).

Related Resources

American Museum of Natural History. Annual Reports. New York: American Museum of Natural History.
1890-1891 (page 9); 1891 (page 9-10); 1892 (page 9); 1895 (page 14-15); 1896 (page 13); 1898 (page 18); 1899 (page 23); 1901 (page 11); 1904 (page 24); 1905 (page 22); 1910 (page 17, 47); 1911 (page 40, 41); 1912 (page 46, 48); 1913 (page 52); 1914 (page 40, 60); 1916 (page 62); 1917 (page 64);  1918 (page 61, 62); 1919 (page 67); 1920 (page 70); 1921 (page 44, 45, 60, 61); 1922 (page 21, 32, 37, 59); 1923 (page 85); 1924 (page 33, 43);  1925 (page 13, 37); 1926 (page 47); 1927 (page xxi); 1928 (page 3); 1929 (page 2, 54); 1931 (page 101); 1932 (page 115, 119); 1933 (page 59); 1934 (page 8); 1935 (page 9); 1936 (page 77); 1937 (page 11, 91); 1938 (page 8); 1940 (page 8); 1941 (page 8); 1954 (page 38); 1958 (page 38); 1960 (page 47); 1964 (page 6); 1965 (page 59); 1966 (page 54); 1967 (page 50); 1968 (page 28)
American Museum of Natural History annual reports, 1902-2001.
Department of Mineralogy and Conchology/Department of Mineralogy annual and quarterly reports for the years 1903, 1905, 1906, 1907, 1908, 1909, 1911; Department of Geology and Paleontology annual reports for the years 1949-1950, 1950-1951, 1952-1953, 1953-1954, 1954-1955, 1955-1956, 1956-1957, 1957-1958, 1958-1959, 1959-1960; Department of Mineralogy annual reports for the years 1960-1961, 1961-1962, 1962-1963, 1965-1966, 1967-1968
American Museum of Natural History early exhibitions and exhibition halls photographs.
Date of resource: [190?]; 36 photoprints : b&w ; 8 x 10 in.; Photographic Collection no. 24
American Museum of Natural History press releases, 1933-1990s.
[Largest Topaz in the World] April 1, 1940; "New, Rare Minerals Exhibited at American Museum." June 1940; "World Famous Gems Returned from Wartime Vaults to Museum." January 27, 1947; "Museum Displays New Synthetic Star Sapphires and Rubies." September 24, 1947; "Museum of Natural History Exhibits Unique Star Ruby." December 29, 1948; "Development of New ‘Cinderella Metal’ Portrayed in Colorful Museum Exhibit." August 24, 1950; "Industrial Diamond Exhibit Opened at American Museum." April 15, 1949; "Museum Displays Famous ‘Black Orloff’ Diamond." March 19, 1951; "632-Carat Emerald Placed on Display at American Museum." November 9, 1953; "World’s Largest Black Diamond Displayed at Museum." March 19, 1951; [Uncle Sam Diamond] February 3, 1960; "Spot Announcements." May 19, 1965; "Spot Announcements." May 8, 1965; "Morgan Hall Reopens to Public at the American Museum of Natural History; Star of India Among Gems on Display." February 5, 1969
American Museum of Natural History Special Collections photographic drawers
Repository: AMNH Special Collections [Black and white photo prints in “Hall of Mineralogy”]
American Museum of Natural History Special Collections vertical files
Repository: AMNH Special Collections [“Morgan Hall Background”; news articles; black and white photo prints]
General guide to the exhibition halls of the American Museum of Natural History.
1904 (Table of Contents, page 14, 16)
General guide to the exhibition halls of the American Museum of Natural History.
1911 (page 73, 74, 89, 91); 1913 (page 89, 103, 105, 106); 1914 (page 114, 115, 117); 1916 (page 123, 125, 126); 1918 (page 96, 115, 116, 117);1919 (page 99, 117, 118, 119); 1921 (page 99, 117, 118, 119); 1922 (page 119); 1923 (page 119); 1926 (page 29, 39); 1927 (page 39, 43); 1928 (page 105); 1930 (page 105, 109); 1931 (page 119, 123, 126); 1932 (page 123, 126); 1933 (page 125, 128); 1934 (page 128, 131); 1935 (page 128, 129, 131); 1936 (page 128, 131); 1939 (page 19, 29); 1943 (page 19, 29); 1945 (page 19, 29, 155); 1947 (page 19, 29, 155); 1949 (page 19, 29, 155); 1953 (page 44, 48); 1956 (page 26, 51); 1958 (page 26, 51); 1962 (page 13, 37); 1964 (page 13, 37); American Museum of Natural History Pictorial Guide, 1967; The American Museum of Natural History: An Introduction, 1972
subjectOf
Historic Halls of the American Museum of Natural History
Curated digital images of permanent halls in the American Museum of Natural History Library, Digital Special Collections.
Preston, Douglas J. Dinosaurs in the Attic: An Excursion into the American Museum of Natural History. New York: St. Martin's; New York: American Museum of Natural History Press, 1986.
Date of resource: c1986; QH70.U52 N459 1986
Series III: Departments, 1959-1969. James Arthur Oliver papers, DR 125-125A. American Museum of Natural History Library Special Collections.
Date of resource: 1959-1969; This series contains travel permission requests for funding of expeditions and the field research. In addition there is correspondence relating to a gift of the largest diamond found in North America (12.5 carats), a donation by the Museum of Abraham Lincoln's death mask to the Lincoln University, the opening of nine exhibition halls, Man in Africa, Indian, Asiatic, Mexican, Pacific, Earth History, Minerals and Gems, North American Birds, Living Invertebrates and the Hayden Planetarium's twenty fifth anniversary reception.; Identifier: DR 127
The collection of minerals / by Louis P. Gratacap.
Date of resource: 1902; QH1 .G8 no.4 1902
The collection of minerals : a guide leaflet to the exhibition halls of the Department of Mineralogy in the American Museum of Natural History / by Louis P. Gratacap.
Date of resource: [1904]; 2nd ed., rev.; QH1 .G8 no.4 1904 no.1-15 1901-1904
The collection of minerals in the American Museum of Natural History / by Herbert P. Whitlock, curator of mineralogy.
Date of resource: [1919]; QH1 .G8 no.49 1919 no.45-52 1917-1921
The collection of minerals in the American Museum of Natural History / by Herbert P. Whitlock, curator of mineralogy.
Date of resource: 1922; 2nd and rev. ed.; QH1 .G8 no.49 1922
The collection of minerals in the American Museum of Natural History / by Herbert P. Whitlock.
Date of resource: [1926]; 3rd, rev. ed.; QH1 .G8 no.49 1926
The collection of minerals in the American Museum of Natural History / by Herbert P. Whitlock.
Date of resource: 1930; 4th, rev. ed.; QH1 .G8 no.49 1930 no.46-60 1918-1938
The history of meteoritics and key meteorite collections : fireballs, falls and finds / edited by G.J.H. McCall, A.J. Bowden and R.J. Howarth.
Date of resource: 2006; vi, 513 p. : ill. (some col.), maps ; 26 cm; Geological Society special publication ; no. 256; QB755 .H57 2006

Written by: Clare O'Dowd
Last modified: 2019 February 1


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