Natural History Museum, Washington DC
Friday, June 8, 2007

When we got to the Natural History museum, a long line of people were waiting to get in:

Julia's to the left, wearing the fuschia dress...

We're all impatient to get in...

At times it was as crowded as the Tut show was. But what amazing things awaited us!

As close as most of us will ever get to 'the wild'...

There's LOTS of skellies...

And there's LOTS of 'rocks', big and small:

Rocks that fell from the sky:

"Grant", (IRON III AB), found 1929, Cibola County, New Mexico

And rocks that were made when some of those meteorites hit the ground:

This 'Desert Impact Glass' was found and formed by the ancient Egyptians into a necklace for King Tut. At first scholars were puzzled by the nature of the "yellow-green glass -- carved into the shape of a scarab beetle", until they realized in 1999 that it had been created by the heat and impact of a meteorite upon the Egyptian desert sands.
(Note of January 2009)
The article linked to in 2007 is no longer available. I found a BBC article about Desert Impact Glass. Also, I have a photo of the scarab with the desert impact glass.

Rocks that were taken from the moon:

Lunar Olivine Basalt 15555, Hadley Rille, near edge of Imbrium Basin,
Collected by Apollo 15, on loan from NASA. "Mare basalts from the Imbrium Basin range from 3.2 to 3.4 billion years in age, showing that volcanism in the basin lasted over 200 million years. This specimen formed midway through the epoch."

Rocks with amazing structure:

QUARTZ, from eroded septarian nodule, Gravetown, Georgia
"This remarkable structure began as a mudball that dried, shrank, and cracked. Fluids infiltrated the cracks and deposited quartz crystals. Later, the clay eroded away, leaving behind a quartz framework."

BIG Rocks:

This is ONE SINGLE crystal of aquamarine:
Beryl (var. aquamarine), New Hampshire
"This 650-kg (1, 430-lb) beryl crystal gives you an idea of how huge crystals can grow in pegmatites. Beryl crystals like this one are mined as a major source of beryllium. Clear and beautifully colored crystals might be cut into gem aquamarines."

More BIG Rocks:

The big one is a CLUSTER of Quartz crystals from a mine in Murfreesboro, Arkansas.

Those are raw minerals, and oddly it wasn't so crowded in the raw mineral display areas. Strangely, though, it is those huge specimens that fascinate me more than the highly processed ones. But not everyone shares my interest. One girl about ten years old declared of one specimen that it looked "like vomit". I hadn't seen any that in any way seemed as such, so I have no idea what in her mind merited such a comment.

Everyone, however, seemed fascinated with the following display. This crystal ball was made from a quartz crystal, the same mineral that is featured in the previous photo. But it is very special, because there are no 'impurities' in it. We can see through it perfectly clearly. Although we discovered everything shows upside down:

In the more popular areas, it was as crowded as it was at the 'Tut show' we went to at LACMA in July 2005. We had to wait our turn in line to see the magnificent diamond and ruby jewels. Each person took out cameras of varying sizes and snapped as they passed by the various stations.

I didn't have such good photographic luck, as many of these photos turned out blurry. But I did capture a few nice shots:

Mackay Emerald and Diamond Necklace, 168 carats, Muzo, Colombia
"Thus huge emerald is set in an art deco diamond and platinum pendant designed by Cartier. In 1931, Clarence Mackay gave the necklace as a wedding gift to his wife, Anna Case - a prima donna at the New York Metropolitan Opera from 1909 to 1920."

Calcite, 1865 carats, St. Joe#2 mine, Balmat, New York
faceted by Arthur Grant

It's quite the sparkler, isn't it? Calcite, however, isn't one of those fancy gem stones, mostly because it is rather soft, only 3 on the Moh's scale, whereas emeralds are eight. Sapphires and rubies are even harder, being 9 on the scale. The hardest mineral is of course, diamond, which is a 10 on the scale.

Julia and I did our best to see everything the natural history museum offered. It's a busy place with much to experience. The only thing we missed was the second 3D Imax movie about lions. The one about sharks was amazing. I felt like the little jellyfish and other small fish were swimming right by me. I could almost reach out and grab them. I really had a good look at all those types of sharks. Sadly though, all of them are endangered, their populations having been reduced by as much as 80%.

I also enjoyed the mammal displays. A movie presentation, "Morgies family re-union" was most educational. Ordinarily, I hate "dead animal" displays, but whoever had done them gave a sort of life to them in that they were posed in their most characteristic poses. In contrast, only so much could be done for the 'dead bird' displays, though better lighting would have helped. (I suspect they were much older displays.). And skellies, this museum has far more of them than I remember the New York museum having. However, in truth I cannot properly judge, as I did not see all the ANHM museum's holdings.

But that is why I planned nine days for our explorations here, so that each day could be devoted to ONE museum. Tomorrow it will be the American Art and Portrait galleries. If only my feet and chafed thighs will hold out! Julia, with her longer legs, does not seem to be having the trouble I do! (I think it is that 'devil' called arthritis that is the culprit.) It is good we are making these explorations before we get any older!

All photos © Joan Lansberry
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