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The largest collection of mineral specimens: where is it and who owns it?

Whether you’ve become the collector of several Littlefield Home mineral specimens or are looking to expand your collection, you may be wondering who your competition is. Who owns the largest collection of minerals? The answer is twofold–the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History happens to possess the largest collection of mineral specimens and is the collection’s official owner, which makes the American people its unofficial owners. If you’re up for a road-trip, you can celebrate your symbolic ownership by visiting the collections at the National Museum of Natural History at 10th Street & Constitution Ave. NW in Washington, D.C.. If you find yourself unable to take a spontaneous road trip to the capital, you can learn more about the mineral specimen collection online.

The National Museum of Natural History’s Mineral Specimens Collection webpage.

The museum’s website explains that the collection was originally acquired from James Smithson, an English Chemist and Minerologist. If his surname sounds familiar, it’s because he bequeathed the funds used to start the Smithsonian Museum, hence the Smithson in Smithsonian. While Smithson’s original collection was lost in a fire in 1865, the modern mineral collections visitors can view today contain many of the same minerals Smithson included in his original collection.

James Smithson

The Smithsonian’s collection now consists of 350,000 mineral specimens.

Although the collection is not yet catalogued online, you can learn more about collection access and research opportunities here or view a video detailing the museum’s collections here:

If you’re looking for more large mineral specimen collections, check out the video below about Tucson’s 2019 Young Mineral Collectors Exhibit.

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