Galerie de Minéralogie et de Géologie (Mineralogy and Geology Gallery)
They are the envy of many… This Gallery’s collections, among the oldest and most prestigious in the world, include Martian meteorites, giant crystals and fantastic rocks and minerals. Precious exhibits which tell the history of the Earth and the solar system.
New "Treasures of the Earth" exhibition
As you stroll around the Jardin des Plantes, you might find yourself heading towards the Galerie de Minéralogie et de Géologie, along the allée Haüy — named after one of the pioneers of mineralogy. This 187 metres long neoclassical building, with its two columned porticos, stands behind the resplendent rose garden and has been closed for a long time for refurbishment, re-opening the so-called "giant crystals" room to host the "Treasures of the Earth" exhibition.
Behind the walls
Your eyes scan the building… On the far left, paleobotanical and mineral reserves. In the centre, the great nave, an area 100 metres long brightened by Corinthian columns and bathed in light streaming in through its array of windows. There, under the benevolent gaze of the statues of Cuvier and Abbé Haüy, can be found part of the geology and mineralogy collections, estimated at 770,000 specimens. To the right, behind a portico whose pediment still bears the inscription "Minéralogie-Bibliothèque" (Mineralogy - Library), despite the latter having been moved, a vestibule is tucked away adorned with paintings by François-Auguste Biard illustrating expeditions to the North Pole in the 19th century. It leads to the auditorium and, on the right, to the "giant crystals" room and the armoured Treasure room.
All shapes and colours
The partial re-opening of the building is centred on the "giant crystals" room, where there is an educational exhibition featuring some remarkable minerals, including twenty or so spectacular giant crystals. Themed alcoves illustrate the wide range of shapes and colours, the beauty of the gems and ornamental stones, the scientific interest of meteorites and the compilation of the Gallery’s collections.
The first stone
The Muséum’s history is closely linked to that of these collections. In the reign of Louis XIII, at the time when the Royal garden of medicinal plants was created, the king’s medicine chest included minerals which were thought to have pharmaceutical qualities. In the 18th century, these minerals became objects to collect and research and were displayed in the Cabinet d’histoire naturelle (Cabinet of natural history) opened by Buffon and Daubenton in 1745. In 1833, work began on building the Gallery, the first building designed to be a Muséum. Many years later, in 1987, the Giant Crystals room was inaugurated — to accommodate this new extensive collection — and so was the Treasure room. And even today, the Gallery’s minerals enlighten researchers on the Earth’s formation and even the solar system’s formation, thanks to the meteorites. Fascinating stardust…