Let's be crystal-clear: the new Seaman Mineral Museum is handsome, classy, and suitable—a fortune that houses a fortune.
The building, on Sharon Ave., was dedicated Thursday. A hundred people gathered on a hot afternoon, across from the ATDC, and attested to a milestone more than a century in the making: a permanent home for the official Mineral Museum of Michigan.
The gift shop and two of a planned 14 galleries opened on July 5; already the museum is on pace to double the number of people who visit a year. The reason: instead of being tucked away in the EERC, it's now prominent and accessible, with convenient parking.
"We couldn't be in a better location," said Darlene Comfort, manager. "It's perfect. People are looking for us and they're coming. And everyone who comes through the door say they'll be back to see the museum in its full glory."
The gift shop is inviting, and a gallery called "The Beauty of Minerals" is anchored by a piece of sheet copper, roughly eight feet square, that weighs 800 pounds--an imposing spectacle indeed. It's complemented by a life-size portrait of Douglass Houghton, the man who started it all.
Curator George Robinson calls the museum "a giant leap forward." He said the collection started as a teaching tool for geology and mining courses in the late 1800s. It was reconfigured as a museum in 1902. Seaman became the curator in 1928. He died in 1937.
"It's good for us. It's good for Tech," Robinson said of the new facility. The museum has 25,000 specimens. Who knows what the future may hold? "The room to show what we have is only limited by time and money," he said.
Tom Shaffner '57 pledged $1 million for the facility. He was unable to attend the dedication. Paul and Janet Clifford and other friends—Director Ted Bornhorst calls them "fervent supporters"--made gifts totaling several hundred thousand dollars. "Thanks to everybody," Bornhorst said.
Appropriately, for a museum noted for its copper collection, the structure sits on an old mine shaft and the parking lot sits over a stope. "You're on the top of Copper Country history," Bornhorst told the crowd.
Jeanne Seaman Farnum, granddaughter of A.E. Seaman, born in Houghton, now of Phoenix, attended the dedication. "It's a beginning," she said.
She recalls her grandfather as a fun-loving, genial man who wrote all his thoughts and ideas in poetic verses. She has gathered them in two books of poems that are on sale at the museum.
One line reads: "Old Nature gives birth to the New." That's what played out Thursday on the hill, as the old gave way to the new.