Thursday, December 9, 2010

Early Correspondence of the Sydney Mining Museum Uncovered

A few years ago I was fortunate enough to purchase at auction a lot of letters that once belonged to the Mining Museum, The Rocks, Sydney, Australia.  At the time, I didn’t fully realize the significance, because I was primarily attracted by the letters written by the likes of European scientists Daubrée, Berwerth, Brezina and Lacroix to C. S. Wilkinson and George W. Card of the Museum.

But I am still kicking myself, because I had to let a second lot of correspondence go to another bidder – correspondence that included letters from several noted British mineralogists, if I recall.

In any event, I was not aware of the history of the museum until fairly recently.  C. S. Wilkinson,  Geological Surveyor-in-Charge, started the geological collection in 1875, which would eventually include not only rocks and minerals, but fossils and meteorites as well.  The magnificent Garden Palace constructed for the Sydney Exhibition of 1879 became its home, but on Sept 22, 1882 the museum caught fire and an estimated 50,000 specimens were destroyed.   

George W. Card became curator and published a handbook of the Museum's collection in 1902.  It appears that he assembled the letters into an autograph album, unfortunately using a bit too much glue and pasting one or two of the letters down in rather precarious positions, but preparing manuscript labels for each one just the same.

In 1996, the Mining Museum was closed and the contents were dispersed in various ways, some rather unfortunate.  It appears that some items were discarded, others put up for auction, and perhaps other specimens donated or lost.  A history of the Museum which I found on the web indicates that early records have not been found.  

That is, until now.  In the next few posts, I will include samples from some of the Museum's correspondence. 

In the interim, a picture of part of the Museum’s collection that is included in Card’s Handbook is displayed below (single click on the image to view a larger one; click again to enlarge further).  


Source:  Card's Handbook, Google Books


History of the Mining Museum: 

George W. Card, Handbook to the Mining and Geological Museum, Sydney, Geological Survey of New South Wales (1902).  Available for view on Google Books.

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