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 Denver Museum of Nature and Science
(1908-    )

The idea for a natural history museum in Denver, Colorado was first proposed in 1892 by a pioneer named Edwin Carter. His proposal was formally accepted in 1899, and he was paid $10,000 for his extensive collection of stuffed birds and mammals (he died a year later). John T. Mason donated a large butterfly and moth collection, and John F. Campion pledged his impressive collection of gold specimens from Breckenridge, Colorado. The museum opened its doors in 1908, under the name of the Colorado Museum of Natural History (that name was changed to the Denver Museum of Natural History in 1948), by which time the museum had accumulated 3400 specimens of mounted animals, rocks and minerals.

Additional mineral collections were acquired in the following years, including those of Mary Kimball Pratt, Etienne Ritter, R.C. Hills, Sadie House, and Henry Porter, as well as part of the E. William Heinrich Collection, and the micromount collection of Paul Seel. An 8-pound mass of crystallized Breckenridge gold known as "Tom's Baby" was also acquired, after having been lost since World War II (it was found in a bank vault). Museum staff have also collected extensively in the field, enriching the collection. Jack A. Murphy, curator of minerals from 1969 to 2004, was particularly effective at specimen acquisition; he was resaponsible for arranging the donation of the "Alma King" rhodochrosite to the museum, and a complete pocket of amazonite with smoky quartz, among many other things.

Today the collection includes well over 34,000 cataloged rock, mineral and meteorite specimens (2500 of which are on public display in the Coors Mineral Hall, opened in 1982) plus several thousand micromounts. Unfortunately the museum has had no full-time curator of minerals since the departure of Jack Murphy in 2004. The curatorial staff of the Geology Department currently consists of four paleontologists and no mineralogists. However, the museum administration has been actively searching for a new mineral curator and hopes to hire one soon.

The museum is open from 9 am to 5 pm daily except December 25. Admission is $10 for adults and $6 for children and seniors. Current programs may be found on the museum's website at

GRESSMAN, T. (1988) The Denver Museum of Natural History. Mineralogical Record, 19, 263-270.
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