Saturday, December 19, 2009

Harvard Maryland Mineral Update

Mineral Bliss erred in the August 14 post when crediting the Harvard Mineralogical Museum with having but two Maryland minerals on public display. Clearly I neglected to read each of the hundreds of labels, particularly of species that failed to grab my attention or when not expecting to find Maryland minerals. In fact, five Maryland minerals were present.

We missed the humongous translucent lamellar talc that's pictured above. It's from an unnamed locality in Harford County. Harvard received it from an unknown source in 1875. Seeking clues regarding a more specific locality, I referred to my "Bible" for this sort of thing, Minerals of Maryland by Ostrander and Price( 1940, Natural History Society of Maryland). It noted an occurrence of "large green translucent sheets of talc" amidst the serpentine barrens surrounding Mine Fields. That would be my guess, but who knows?

Interestingly, the Museum's Curator Dr. Carl Francis also removed from the locked cabinet beneath the talc a well formed crystal of ilmenite about an inch in diameter. It was embedded in Harford County talc of a hue similar to that of the large sheet. Minerals of Maryland does not mention a locality in Harford County where both talc and ilmenite were known to occur. It does, however, note that in the vicinity of Dublin, the eminent early 19th Century mineralogist Earl Shannon reported ilmenite and garnets in "quartz-fuchsite." With hindsight, I find the resemblance between fuchsite (a variety of muscovite not often found in Maryland) and our talc to be interesting.

Coincidentally, one of the other Maryland pieces on display I missed in August was the ilmenite specimen at left from "near Dublin" in Harford County. It had reached Harvard through the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh. Undisplayed in the wooden cabinet beneath it was a similar looking ilmenite crystal, which had also been previously housed at the Carnegie Museum. Its original label showed Chester, Massachusetts, for the locality. Meanwhile, the first of two Harvard attribution labels accompanying it gave the locality as "unknown." A second more recent such label named Harford County's Dinning Rutile Prospect. Minerals of Maryland does not mention ilmenite as occurring at the Dinning Rutile Prospect. This seems curious considering the size of the that crystal, which is pictured at right.

I also overlooked a specimen of coalingite from Hunting Hill. The piece in the picture at left was not displayed in the gallery on either of my visits. Rather, it came from a flat of Hunting Hill minerals donated to Harvard by National Rockhound and Lapidary Hall of Famer Fred Shaefermeyer. Since it closely resembled the specimen in the gallery, I photographed it instead because of time restraints and for the sake of convenience.

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