Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Desautels Symposium and the Micromounters Hall of Fame

Our title picture shows but a minute portion of the classic (best in the world) vintage micromount display that John Ebner brings down from New Jersey the first weekend of October each year to the M.H.A's Cal Pierson Conference Center in Elkridge, Maryland. It is the venue for the Baltimore Mineral Society's annual Desautels Micromount Symposium. This 55th annual occurrence of world's first and longest- lived annual micromount symposium celebrated its 55th year between 7:30 PM on Sept. 30, 2011, and 2 PM Sunday, Oct. 2. Sponsored and produced since inception by the Baltimore Mineral Society, the event attracts micromount aficionados from around the globe for a weekend of fellowship, trading, purchasing, and presentations that include inducting new members into the Micromounters Hall of Fame.

Inductees not only own substantial micromount collections, they must for at least 15 years have been among the " loudest for the longest, demonstrated generosity, and helped others." Quintin Wight, perennial master of ceremonies for Micromounters Hall of Fame inductions, speaks these words each year when describing what it takes to be considered for selection. Perhaps no one else on earth more personifies these criteria than Quintin Wight himself. Hailing from Canada, he is a 1990 inductee who regularly travels the globe with his wife Willow to participate in micromount conferences and symposia. Each year, Quintin reports on these events in a major article in Rocks and Minerals. He also authored the hardcover and glossy Complete Book of Micromounting, published in 1993 by Mineralogical Record.

Since any attempt to even briefly describe the essence of John Ebner's collection would at the very least merit it's own post, we limit photographic coverage in our title picture to one little corner of it bearing the original Hall of Fame plaque from the late and legendary micromounter Paul Seel's 1981 induction. The micromount collection Seel accumulated is one of the greatest in the world. Upon his death in 1982, he bequeathed the entire collection, which notably included a vast array of diamonds from nearly every locality on earth, to the curatorship of James W. Hurlbut at the Denver Museum of Natural History and Science. In addition to overseeing the Seel collection Mr. Hurlbut has been an active fixture in the mineralogical community since 1947 as a speaker, author, and director of field trips. The youngish looking for age 90 inductee is shown at left next to Quintin Wight upon receiving his Hall of Fame plaque.

Also inducted and pictured at right receiving from Quintin a similar plaque, is Dr. R. Peter Richards. Among other pursuits, Dr. Richards is a prolific author of articles in Rocks and Minerals and Mineralogical Record. Although by profession a senior research scientist at Heidelberg University's National Center for Water Quality Research laboratory, he is highly trained in and spends much of his time studying mineralogy focusing in particular on crystal morphology, a topic of paramount interest to micromounters. Among his better known accomplishments was conversion of the crystal drawing application known as SHAPE for use on the Macintosh computer.

As dictated by tradition, this past spring the Board of the Baltimore Mineral Society, upon review of numerous letters of recommendation previously submitted to Quintin Wight, selected two new future Micromount Hall of Famers for induction at its 2012 symposium. One of those chosen, Arnold G. Hampson, of Dolores, Colorado, unfortunately passed away soon thereafter without learning of his selection, which will be presented posthumously. The other future Hall of Famer was New Zealander, Rod Martin, a major player in the international community of micromounters who also publishes and researches prolifically.

Subsequent to their inductions, both Jim Hurlbut and Pete Richards treated the crowd to presentations about subjects on which they're considered experts. The former spoke on the extensive (primarily gold) mining operations in Colorado's Breckingridge District. He illustrated his talk with maps as well images portraying native gold specimens of mind-boggling size and substance. Pete Richards' presentation featured crystals formed in recent years by a year long shale fire that started in talus along the banks of the Huron River near Cleveland, Ohio. Highlights were photographs of sal ammoniac crystals showing a range of habits diverse almost beyond comprehension. Pete also showed other fascinating shale-fire-created crystals of other materials with slightly different molecular arrangements that he suggested should qualify for approval as minerals.

The next day, Sunday, from 9 AM until about noon, attendees continued to socialize, to trade, to purchase mounts from busy dealers whose tables lined the main hallway, as well as peruse and help themselves to the myriad mostly unmounted rocks bearing micromount potential remaining at giveaway tables in a side room. Dan Behnke, one of the world's pre-eminent photographers of micromounts then gave the final presentation, which focused on the Clark Mine in Keweenah County, Michigan.

Before leaving, the crowd was treated to a buffet lunch as they had been both the day before (Saturday) as well as Friday evening. Most will probably be back to the Pierson Center during early next spring for the Atlantic Micromounters' Conference, an event that's very similar to the Desautels Symposium except without the Hall of Fame inductions.

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