Monday, February 28, 2011

Jeff Nagy Visits John White

Jeffrey W. Nagy, whose work continues with putting together an updated revision of Lawrence R. Bernstein's 1980 publication Minerals of the Washington D.C. Area, is a resident of Damascus, Maryland. John S. White, who among other things, founded Mineralogical Record and served as Curator in Charge of the Smithsonian's Division of Mineralogy from 1984 to 1991, had a hand in the earlier Bernstein original publication. He lives in Stewartstown, PA.

Being in touch with both of them and situated midway between in Baltimore, it was recently my privilege to bring Jeff and John together at John's house just a few miles north of the Pennsylvania-Maryland line. Needless to say they had plenty to chat about as they observed the various suites of minerals in John's collection.

I've always been quite amazed at how John's L shaped mineral room, except for the quartz
cabinet pictured at left, appears almost devoid of minerals on display. Instead, most of his collection is arranged in suites in cabinets where the minerals, including numerous "floater" crystals as well as cabs and cut stones, rest neatly in wooden cases and pull-out drawers. John fashioned most of these himself in a section of his and Merle's garage, which doubles as a woodworking shop. A limited amount of dealer "inventory" in about a dozen cardboard flats fits neatly inside one of several enclosed cabinets lining the east wall. More visible are scores of books relating to mineralogy that fill bookshelves lining much of the wall space. To say the least, it's an impressive setting, the feng shui of which I had limited confidence that my camera could capture.

As John and Jeff shot the breeze and looked at minerals, I was busy positioning and photographing a few selected specimens from a suite that included minerals collected in the Washington, D.C. area. One piece in particular of which I ended up with an amazing and beautiful shot was a dark green prehnite specimen adorned with a few epidote crystals. It was collected at the Fairfax Quarry in Centreville, Virginia, presumably sometime in the late 1970's, by the late and legendary George Brewer. Jeff requested that I refrain from publishing this photograph as well as other pertinent images in favor of having them debut upon release of the new Minerals of the Washington, D.C. Area.

Although Jeff has finished drafting most of the content, he is still in the midst of exploring a handful of localities that were lost in time when the original work was published. As much an historian as a mineral person, Jeff has found evidence in old land records of several likely mining operations in Montgomery County dating to pre-Revolutionary times in locations that might still prove to be accessible. He expects to have completed his research and drafting together with accompanying illustrations, maps, and photographs by the end of 2011.

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