Minerals and biological life co-evolved. Scientific theory posits that at the beginning of our solar system, there were 50 to 60 minerals to be found on Earth. Today, Earth is home to over 5,600 minerals. The University of Arizona Alfie Norville Gem and Mineral Museum tells this story.
Named in honor of Alfie Norville, the museum showcases 2,200 specimens of gems, minerals, fossils, meteorites and other geologic wonders. It has maintained its 100-year heritage through a move from Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium to the Historic Pima County Courthouse, housing more than 22,000 display and research specimens, some of which are on loan to the university.
The new site will be a hub of activity for students and researchers. Its 9,000-square-foot lower level is dedicated to the collection and its curation as well as a research lab and outreach area with a classroom, library and lounge.
The main level of the museum is an expansive 12,000 square feet divided between three galleries, which are respectively dedicated to mineral evolution, the Arizona-Mexico region, and gems and jewelry. Museum staff are hopeful the museum will be inviting to everyone, inspiring the public to inquire and learn more.
“The mission is not only to educate in bite-sized pieces,” says Eric Fritz, museum manager, “but also to inspire people to learn based on what speaks to them at the museum.
It could be as simple as something they’ve never seen before. We’d like people to leave here not only having a ‘wow’ moment but taking that moment with them.”
UArizona students can take advantage of the museum’s resources when they enroll in geosciences courses. Beginning this fall, the College of Science will offer a gem science emphasis within the geosciences major.
In addition to tailored course content, students will be offered apprenticeship opportunities with luxury consignment marketplace The RealReal and the nonprofit Gemological Institute of America.
Learn more at uamineralmuseum.com.