Mineral Photography

April 9, 2010

I’ve said before that I volunteered at the Oxford University Natural History Museum cataloguing their education handling collection with a couple of other people, but I also managed to worm my way into the mineralogy department for a time to help them with their cataloguing and photograph a very small part of their VAST collection. I adore this place more than I can say and was thrilled to be working behind the scenes there.

During this time I moved from volunteering on Saturdays to Thursday afternoons, making up the time during the rest of the week in my proper job. I had a little setup in a corner of the mineralogy department and spent some absolutely delightful afternoons peering through my viewfinder at some of the most exotic and beautiful objects I have ever seen.

It was particularly good for me as I was just starting the Open University’s nine month Geology course at that time, so I was able to see examples of the things I was reading about (there was a big section on crystal formation) that were not in the massive box of samples they send all their students.

The room is, as you would expect, lined with drawers and drawers and drawers each full of crystal upon crystal upon crystal. The large entrance doors of the department open into the public gallery, so they had to be kept locked at all times (people do try the handles and just walk in, as I’d already found when I was doing my previous cataloguing work).

I was assigned a particular little set of drawers to go through, which contained a group of crystals that had previously been used in a museum display and wanted photographing nicely before eventually being dispersed back into the main body of the collection. Before that happens however, many of these specimens are again on displayat the moment (and for at least the next six months) in a new exhibition in the upper gallery called ‘Amazing Minerals, Curious Crystals’. There’s always something fun going on, I do miss this place an awful lot.

Sadly, I never quite finished this job before I had to leave, having been offered the PhD in Bradford. Maybe, when it is all over, I will be allowed back to finish the job :-)

One or two of the objects were even more than usually interesting to me: the desert rose above for example is the very one laying on the table in front of Richard Dawkins in one of his wonderful Royal Institution christmas lectures from 1991 (I remember watching this very well).

I found this connection very exciting :-)

I actually found the photography more difficult than I had expected: the colours are often incredibly soft and difficult to capture. Being usually a very important feature it often took me quite a while to get an image right. I do still have many of the original files, but don’t have permission to post them except as thumbnails, so here are a few examples of some of the exquisite objects I had the pleasure of handling.

© OUMNH

It was particularly good for me as I was just starting the Open University’s nine month Geology course at that time, so I was able to see examples of the things I was reading about (there was a big section on crystal formation) that were not in the massive box of samples they send all their students.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: