Copper in the Arts

July 2007

Carnegie Museum of Natural History Reopens Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems

The Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems, part of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, re-opened last month after undergoing an ambitious renovation project. Hillman Hall was temporarily closed in early 2006, and the majority of the collection was taken off of public view. During that time, the entire hall underwent a major facelift, and now features new display cases and specimens, improved lighting, and a dramatic entranceway showcasing the museum's breathtaking selection of minerals.

Hillman Hall of Minerals Hillman Hall of Minerals, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh

Photograph courtesy of Hillman Hall of Minerals

"The new entrance to Hillman Hall gives visitors a sense of what they will encounter once they are inside the hall," says Marc Wilson, Section Head of Minerals.

Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems has always been one of the museum's most popular and important halls. "It is very exciting to see the specimens in a new light," said Dave Smith, interim co-director of Carnegie Museum of Natural History. "I believe visitors who have loved Hillman Hall for years will be pleasantly surprised by what they encounter once it reopens."

While Hillman Hall was closed, the museum acquired numerous minerals and gems that are now on display now, including pieces from the Academy of Natural Sciences Philadelphia Collection. The acquisition of minerals from this historical collection, coupled with the museum's own collection, make the museum home to the world's most important collection of Pennsylvania minerals.

Other fascinating pieces in the collection include the breathtaking City in the Clouds, a cluster of gemmy tourmaline crystals of watermelon-colored spikes protruding like skyscrapers, and the 2,200-pound glacial nugget of native float copper discovered south of Houghton, Michigan. Called 'float' copper due to its occurrence in glacial gravels once referred to as 'glacial floats,' this rare form of native copper is even more unusual because of its immense size.

Part of the renovation project of Hillman Hall includes the creation of the Wertz Gallery of Gems and Jewelry, which will focus on gems, the crystals they come from and jewelry comprised of precious stones. Wertz Gallery, named in honor of Ronald W. Wertz, longtime president of the Hillman Foundation, will open in September.

Originally opened in 1980, the Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems is considered one of the top mineral and gem exhibits in the country. The entire hall is divided into eight sections including Lithology and Processes, Crystallography, Mineral Properties, Fluorescence and Phosphorescence, Locality Suites, Pennsylvania Minerals & Gems, Systematic Collection, and the Masterpiece Gallery.


Carnegie Museum of Natural History's Hillman Hall of Minerals, (412) 622-3131, is located at 4400 Forbes Ave., Pittsburgh, PA.

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