Beneski Museum of Natural History

Minerals Collection

Mesolite

Mesolite. Poona, India

The mineralogy collection consists of approximately 4,300 cataloged specimens, with over 9,700 objects. Representing about 800 mineral species from more than 50 countries, the collection is strongest in minerals derived from classic European and U.S. localities. The collection is arranged according to the old Dana classification system.

Somewhat unusual amongst the holdings of the BMNHAC, this collection was amassed primarily through trade and purchase rather than expeditionary collecting by individuals associated with the College. Contributors include noted dealers such as Albert Edward Foote, August Krantz, George Frederick Kunz, Lazard Cahn, B. Sturtz, and Ward’s Natural Science. Private collectors include Walter Frederick Ferrier, S. Denton and Edward Burroughs Underhill. Collectors/donors associated with Amherst College include Francis Richmond Allen, George W. Bain, William Phipps Blake, Gerald P. Brophy, Julius W. Eggleston, Benjamin Kendall Emerson, Clarence W. Fearing, Carl A. Francis, Edward Hitchcock, and Charles Upham Shepard.

As it happens, the current mineralogy collection is not the first one to have been acquired by the College. The original collection—thought to be one of the best of its contemporaries—had been assembled by Amherst geology professor Charles Upham Shepard (1804-1886) throughout more than 40 years of collection, exchange and curation. Regrettably, nearly all of the 25,000 specimens were destroyed when the building that housed it, Walker Hall, was leveled by a fire in 1882. The mineralogical curator at the time, Professor Benjamin Kendall Emerson (1843-1932), soon began the work of reassembling the collection. The collection was used for both teaching and display in the 19th and 20th centuries, but is now used primarily for display purposes.