The mineralogy collection of the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle (MNHN) contains around 130,000 specimens. It was created in 1793 based on the royal mineralogy collections, at the same time as the Muséum’s mineralogy chair.
When it was created, this minerals and gems collection incorporated those specimens that had been assembled since 1626 under the reign of French king Louis XIII in the collections of the Royal Garden of Medicinal Plants. Some specimens of the King’s Cabinet and some of the Crown jewels were also added to this collection. Its historical interest grew further in the 18th century, when modern disciplines of mineralogy and crystallography emerged.
The MNHN collection has continued to grow since its creation, with the aim of sampling the planet’s mineral diversity and showing its possible uses for humanity. This growth is the result of the systematic collecting of mineral species and recording of their geographical origins by the Muséum’s scientists, and through numerous donations: amongst other things, they include a collection of cut gems and crystals, the dream stone collection of Roger Caillois, objects, samples, instruments, manuscripts and historical models of minerals and crystals that belonged to the great scientists of the 18th and 19th centuries, like Romé de l’Isle, Haüy, Des Cloizeaux or Lacroix. The original documents and manuscripts associated with these historic collections are preserved at the Muséum’s Bibliothèque Centrale. They are accessible on request.
The collection contains some 340 types of mineral species (reference samples of each newly described mineral species). The minerals are classified following the international criteria currently in force.
The specimens of the mineralogy collection are regularly re-examined as part of research programmes (systematic mineralogy, crystallography, gitology, environmental and heritage mineralogy, history of science and collections). Every year, we receive hundreds of requests to take part in these research activities and to exhibit specimens at events for the general public (exhibitions, film shoots, publications). A database is currently being created and should be accessible on the Muséum’s website soon. Many publications in relation to the mineralogy collection are accessible at the Muséum’s Bibliothèque Centrale or the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.