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AMNH’s Halls of Gems and Minerals to undergo metamorphosis

Scientific progress marches on

All renderings by Ralph Appelbaum Associates/Courtesy AMNH

The five-story expansion on the westerly side of the American Museum of Natural History isn’t the only change afoot: as Gothamist reports, the Halls of Gems and Minerals are also getting a makeover.

Yesterday, the museum announced the halls—currently, in Gothamist’s assessment, “two of the greatest, darkest, most carpeted areas” in the joint—will get a very modern overhaul, swapping the ’70s design for something that is, depending on your perspective, a contemporary update or an educational imitation of a “sterile mall display.”

The new-and-maybe-improved halls will get new names, too: the Morgan Memorial Hall of Gems and the Harry Frank Guggenheim Hall of Minerals (RIP) will be now rechristened for Allison and Roberto Mignone. And the wing won’t be laid out like a cul-de-sac anymore; instead, the Halls will feature what the release calls a “stunning Crystalline Pass” linking them to the 235,000-square-foot Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education and Innovation.

Past, Present
All renderings by Ralph Appelbaum Associates/Courtesy AMNH

The biggest news, though, is the addition of the wing’s new headliner: a 12-foot-tall, 9,000-plus pound amethyst geode from Uruguay, which is on temporary display in AMNH’s Grand Gallery through the Holiday Season.

The current halls close on October 26th, at which point the space will begin its multi-year transformation, reopening sometime in 2019.

According to the release, the “redesigned exhibits will tell the fascinating story of how approximately 4,500 different types of minerals arose on our dynamic planet, how scientists classify them, and how humans have fashioned them into gems and used them throughout history for personal adornment, tools, and technology.”

It’s only recently that such exhibits have become possible, explained George E. Harlow, a curator in the Museum’s Division of Physical Sciences, and the curator of the new Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals.

“Forty-plus years ago, when the current galleries were designed, scientists had not yet begun to explore the concept of mineral evolution,” he said in the release. “Today, we work within a different framework, where much of the diversity of minerals on our dynamic planet is directly connected to the evolution of life. Our new exhibits will allow us to tell how the story of minerals is linked with their natural environment and biology on the one hand and with culture and technology on the other.”

Check out the renderings of the new space—and the new geode—below:

The crystalline pass
The mineral formation zones
The future fluorescence and phosphorescence gallery
The amethyst geode