Museum of Mineralogy and Petrology

Museum of Mineralogy and Petrology
Museum of Mineralogy and Petrology, University of Athens

History

The original collections of the Mineralogy and Petrology Museum were created at the Natural History Society that was established in Athens in 1835. The University acquired the collections and housed them on its premises since its foundation in 1837. The University Museums of Mineralogy-Petrography, Palaeontology-Geology, Zoology and Botany were created in 1908; since then they have functioned as independent annexes. The Mineralogy and Petrology Museum has been part of the Geology Department since 1982, along with the Mineralogy and Petrology Section.

In the 19th century, the professorships of Mineralogy and Petrology and the counterpart chairs were held by I. Mitsopoulos (1845-1892) and K. Mitsopoulos (1845-1910), who served as curators of the homonymous Museum during the same period. In 1910, K. Ktenas was elected professor of Mineralogy and Petrology (1912-1935). He was succeeded by G. Georgalas (1936-1946) and then by A. Georgiadis (1946-1965) and G. Marakis (1973-1993), who were also curators of the Mineralogy and Petrology Museum. Law 1268/82 established the Faculty of Science, to which the Geology Department belongs, as does the Mineralogy and Petrology Section, which is part of it, together with the Museum. Then Professor K. Sideris was appointed President of the Museum’s Three-Member Administrative Board. In 2000, Assistant Professor A. Katerinopoulos was elected Curator of the Museum.

Until 1979, the Mineralogy and Petrology Museum was housed in the building located on Akadimias St between Massalias and Sina, which is known today as the Kostis Palamas University Building. At that time the collections were transferred to the Ano Ilisia University campus of the university, where they were stored until 1996. In an effort to repair the 19th-century wooden display cases, the collections suffered severe damage (as almost all samples became separated from their labels), and a number of samples were destroyed.

Between 1997 and 1999, the samples were identified and re-classified according to the modern classification system, so that the Museum could open again. This task was undertaken by Associate Professor A. Katerinopoulos with the help of geologists Dr P. Voudouris and Th. Tagmatarchi, under the supervision of Professor K. Sideris, then chairman of the Geology Department. The Museum reopened officially on 7 February 2000.

Today the Museum’s collections of samples are exhibited in an independent area in the Geology Department buildings. It is not only the oldest collection of minerals and rocks in Greece, but it is also one of international repute.

The importance of the collection does not reside solely in the presentation of particularly beautiful samples, but in the abundance and quality of the minerals from “classical” sites in former states of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the German Empire and Tsarist Russia, primarily from sites which have today been exhausted and are known only from the literature. The Museum’s collections contain many samples from sites in the Erzgebirge mountains of Bohemia (former Hungarian mining province) such as Schemnitz and Kremnitz, from Freiberg in Saxony, the Harz mountains in Germany, the Siebenbuergen district of Romania (regions of Nagyag, Banat, and Felsobanya), the Ural Mountains (regions of Miask, Nizhne Tagil, Achmatovsk, Mursinka) and Siberia (Nertschink region).

ACQUISITION OF THE SAMPLES

Kaemmerer, Cabinet Adviser to the Russian Empire, donated the first significant collection to the Museum in 1858. This collection included noteworthy samples (a total of 158) from the Urals and from regions in the Empire that subsequently became part of the former Soviet Union.

This was followed in 1859 by the donation of the Penosta collection with minerals from the Tirol, and in 1860, perhaps the most significant donation to the Museum by Charitov, Consul of the Russian Empire, with 555 samples of minerals and precious stones from Russia and Siberia.

In that same year, two collections were purchased belonging to P. Vouyoukas, captain in the Engineers’ Corps, with 450 samples of minerals from all over the world (220 different types), and to G. Soutsos (60 samples of minerals of German origin).

An important donation was made by Greece’s King Otho and Queen Amalia in 1863, with minerals and ores that had been collected by the geologist Fiedler on Greek territory. The same donation included Th. Xenos’s collection of minerals from the Isle of Elba.

In 1868 about 100 samples of gold and silver minerals from various mines in Mexico were donated to the Museum by V. Vitalis, as well as 150 mineral samples from Nordenskjold, Sweden. At the same period, the collection of Dr. A. Lindermayer was purchased, which contained more than 400 minerals and rocks from Greece and abroad.

The museum’s collections were significantly enhanced by the donation of the A. Vernardakis collection, comprising mainly Russian minerals (1874) and the purchase of the B. Wappler collection (1880) with about 1200 samples of rocks from all over the world. In 1899, Christian Ernst from Denmark donated about 150 samples of zeolites, while in 1902, 140 samples of minerals from Vesuvius were purchased from E. Poniropoulos. The samples of minerals from Lavrion date from the late 19th or early 20th century. They include a collection of smithsonites unrivalled throughout the world, created by the purchase of about 350 samples from Giannopoulos (1883), 120 samples from G. Kontopoulos (1901), 60 from I. Lymberiadis (1912) and N. Manthos (1914). Also noteworthy were the donations by Professor M. Maravelakis and by A. Deligiorgis, foreman of the Cassandra mines, containing minerals from Crete and Halkidiki respectively.

Under the curatorship of K. Ktenas (1913-1935), the mineralogical and petrological collections were classified and a systematic exhibition of minerals and rocks of Greek origin was assembled; the conditions at the Museum and its workshop were significantly improved and a collection of lavas and other volcanic materials from the recent eruptions of the Santorini volcano was added.

After 1930 the Museum was expanded and all the Greek rock collections were gathered together. The teaching collections of the Museum and Laboratory were enriched with the purchase of mineralogical and petrological collections from Germany, which were placed in specially built display cases. After 1912 in particular, many geological excursions were organised by the Museum staff to various parts of Greece with a view to collecting samples of minerals and rocks.

In 1928, donations were made to the Museum of mineralogical collections by academician Ph. Negris, mining engineer, and by I. Manousos (the latter with minerals from Milos) which were enriched in 1929 by the purchase of 600 additional samples. In 1931, the Museum acquired two significant collections through donations, one by K. Ktenas with minerals from Finland, and the second by Assistant Professor S. Papavassiliou with minerals from Naxos. A new important purchase of minerals (400 samples from various sites in Europe) was made in 1935, while in 1938, Kofinas donated samples of minerals from the Transvaal in South Africa.

After World War II, the Museum’s collections were enhanced by donations from Messrs Lavranos (minerals from South Africa) and Xanthos (minerals from Greece). Meanwhile, between the years 1958-62, the Museum’s collection of minerals was once again re-classified under the supervision of Professor A. Georgiadis.

In 1997, the N. Nikolidakis collection was purchased with 140 samples of minerals from Lavrion, and the A. Tataris collection (samples from Greece and abroad) was donated, as was the A. Tsolakos collection (mainly samples from Serifos). They were followed in 1999 by donations of Greek minerals by the I. Papanikolaou family and by A. Katerinopoulos. A collection of both rough and processed precious stones was lent to the Museum for exhibition by N. Kielty-Lambrinidis. These samples are exhibited in the prominent, internally-lighted display cases donated by the Axarlian family in memory of Thanos Axarlian. A significant donation was made by the Metaxas family, in memory of the geologist Platon Metaxas and contains our sole sample of smoky quartz in the form of a sceptre.

The Museum today has at least 10,000 mineral samples and 15,000 samples of rocks and ores, of which about 3500 mineral and 400 rock samples are exhibited.


Museum of Mineralogy and Petrology

Department of Geology and Geoenvironment,
Panepistimioupoli Campus Zografou,
15784 Athens, Greece
Telephone: +30 210 7274112, 7274180
Fax: +30 210 7274883
Email: [email protected]

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