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History

In 1841, Douglass Houghton, state geologist, wrote a report on the copper deposits of Upper Michigan. Haphazard exploration of the area and ineffective early mining methods made evident the need for miners and geologists to get the copper out of these rock formations economically. Men concerned about the task of trained miners decided there had to be a school specifically oriented toward mining and related subjects. This was to be in the mining area where they were most needed.

In 1885, Senator D.J. Hubbell was instrumental in securing passage of the act establishing the Michigan Mining School. This began in the fall of 1886, in the Houghton Firehall. In 1888, the school moved into Hubbell Hall, a fine new building of Jacobsville sandstone, with a copper-roofed tower.

In the 1886-87 school catalog, a drawing of the second floor plan included a room labeled "museum and lecture room," but it was relabeled"physical laboratory" in the catalog for the following year. At least, there was a large mineralogical laboratory in this building, which was needed for a fast-growing collection of reference minerals and rocks.

Meanwhile, Arthur Edmund Seaman came to the Upper Peninsula. He started work as a timberman but developed a knowledge of rocks and minerals on his own and was taken into the Michigan Geological Survey by C.E. Wright in 1885. After Wright died, Dr. Wadsworth of the geological survey and also director at the Michigan Mining School, retained Seaman.

The 1890-91 school catalog states that "20,000 mineral specimens were added to the mineralogical collection during 1889 and 1890, making this institution second to none in its means employed in giving instruction in practical Determinative Mineralogy. The entire collections number over 27,000 specimens of minerals." Each student studied and recited on these until he determined between 3,000 and 6,000 minerals, and could identify, by sight over 300 species.

The catalog for 1891-92 not only described courses taught, but actually listed the minerals used in the lecture collection, arranged according to the sixth edition of Dana's System of Mineralogy. For the crystallography courses, 1,800 natural crystals were used, as well as models. For the other mineralogy courses, there were 10,000 specimens in the lecture collection and over 17,000 comprising the practice collection and unlabeled test specimens. That still doesn't make a museum, but an inventory of the geology department in 1896 listed cases in the hall at $200, and minerals in those cases at $500. This collection could very well have been the nucleus of a future museum.

In addition to donations, the mineralogy and geology department continually built up the collections by purchases, field collection and trades. At one time, students were assessed $1.00 per course, which was to be used for mineral purchases, but according to old invoices, the state paid for most of the minerals during this period.

The acquisition of some of the most outstanding specimens, presumably purchased just at the turn of the century, must have been the result of a very special invitation. Professor Seaman wrote a formal note to college President F. W. McNair, telling him that A. C. Baker, Lieut. U.S. Navy, had asked if the college could take part in the Paris Exposition of 1900. An outstanding collection of top quality museum specimens from classic localities went to Paris in 1900. The fine case in which the collection was displayed was made in Paris and returned with the specimens. This exhibit won awards for displays of minerals, maps, and mine models at Paris and other exhibitions, such as Pan American Exposition at Buffalo, New York, 1901, and Louisiana Purchase Exposition at St. Louis, Missouri in 1904. The awards have been on exhibit since that time.

The geological-mineralogical museum became a reality in 1902 it was mentioned in the 1902-03 MCM catalog as being set up in the former Qualitative Laboratory room. In 1907, the legislature provided for a fire-proof building to house the library, administrative offices, and "the geological and mineralogical museum collection." The museum inventory for 1908 listed mineral totaling $6,700 and polished marbles totaling $300. This new library-museum building (later known as the Administration Building) was constructed in 1908, and the museum specimens were moved from their crowded quarters in Hubbell Hall to their new home, using the entire second floor of the new brick building, according to the 1908-09 catalog. In 1931 the museum was relocated to the Hotchkiss Hall.

In 1928, Professor A.E. Seaman was officially named curator of the museum, when he retired from active teaching. In 1937, Professor Seaman died. The museum door was adorned with a bronze plaque honoring the memory of this fine man who was instrumental in organizing and devoted much of his life to developing a world renowned mineral collection. After Seaman's death, Spiroff was appointed curator in 1938. From 1943 to 1948, Professor Wyllis Seaman held the position of curator. After 1948 he retired and became associated with Republic Steel. In 1964, Professor Spiroff was reappointed curator, a position he held past his retirement from teaching in 1971. In October 1975, Jean Peterman Kemp, one of Spiroff's best mineralogy students, was given the title of curator.

In June of 1976 the museum collections were relocated once again to the 5th floor of the EERC building. This was intended to be a temporary home for the museum until a visitors center for Michigan Tech was built.

In 1986 Stanley J Dyl II was made curator. In 1992 Dr. John A. Jaszczak, Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics, was named Adjunct Curator in order to help advance the academic role of the museum on and off campus. The Seaman Mineral Museum Society was started in 1995 to help promote and advance the museum. In 1996 Dr. George W. Robinson was hired as curator of the museum, and also professor of mineralogy. Stan Dyl was apointed to the title of Museum Director. In 2003, Dr. Theodore J. Bornhorst, a professor of economic geology, joined the museum staff as Director of Administration. Stan Dyl's title was changed to Director of Advancement and Planning.



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