One of the largest systematic collections in the world
Out of the 100,000 specimens in the entire collection, the systematic collection accounts for around 25,000 of them. As of 2015, there were about 4,900 recognized mineral species, of which the museum holds around 2,900. The systematic collection represents how one mineral species may be found in several deposits around the world. The rarest minerals are illustrated sometimes by only one specimen, most often not on exhibit as it might be too small (smaller than the thickness of a hair sometimes!) to be exhibeted. On the other hand, some minerals like quartz and calcite are widespread in nature and occupy several drawers and display cases in our collection.
There are some minerals that do not have a determined variety, or which are only partially analyzed. For a very long time, the determination of mineral species was based mostly on description and chemical analyses, without an international committee to agree on mineral names and definitions. At one point, there were up to 20,000 variety names given for the same varieties (synonyms) of mixed or artificial minerals. Mineralogists only began to use optical characteristics as an identification criterion beginning in 1850. Mineralogists began using X-ray analsysis even later, starting in 1920 in only the most technologically advanced labs.
It was only in 1959 that the International Mineralogical Association (IMA) created a committee to validate each new mineral species. The submission of a new species must include a detailed description of the mineral, including chemical analyses, and its optical and crystallographic properties. In addition, a “type” specimen must be deposited and catalogued at a museum. Nowadays, thanks to new techniques that enable mineralogists to identify tiny minerals (tens of micrometers), tens of new minerals are identified and approved every month.
French mineralogists have been very productive in the search for new minerals. For example, between 1962 and 1983, 86 out of the 1146 mineral species accepted by the IMA during that time were described by (or with the assistance of) French scientists, including 23 which came from French deposits.
As a museum, it is necessary to better preserve and reexamine underresearched mineral species using new technological tools. New research is leading to new definitions and the discoveries of many new mineral species.
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Musée de Minéralogie
60 boulevard Saint Michel
Tuesday - Friday: 1:30 - 6pm
Saturday: 10am - 12:30pm; 2 - 5pm
Closed on Sundays, Mondays and National Holidays.
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