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Report on the joint meeting of the
IMA-Commission on Museums and SMMP-Europe
Munich, October 29th, 2004

 The 2004 meeting was the fourth annual meeting of the European Branch of SMMP. The aim is to attract Museum Curators, whether SMMP members or not, to an informal meeting to discuss items of mutual interest. At last years meeting, it was decided that it would be easier and simpler to hold the IMA-CM and SMMP meetings together. In previous years, the SMMP meeting would precede the IMA-CM one, but it was found that people attending one would also attend the other. The joint meeting was timed (as always) to take place during the Munich International Mineral Show on Friday, October 29th, 2004 from 4:30 pm in the meeting room A 52.

 This year 21 curators from 9 countries attended.

 The meeting was jointly chaired by Dr. Lydie Touret (Paris School of Mines/France) as Chairwoman of the CM and Peter Davidson (National Museums of Scotland, Edinburgh/Scotland) as European co-ordinator of the SMMP.

 Dr. Touret opened proceedings with a short report of the 5th Museums & Mineralogy Conference (M&M5), held in Paris from the 5th to 9th September. The conference judged to have been a great success with over 150 participants from 27 countries presenting 46 oral and 41 poster contributions. Among the participants, there was a good mixture of ages with a fair sprinkling of new faces amongst the battle-hardened veterans of the museum world. The lecture hall was always filled in spite of the obvious attractions of Paris and the hot weather.  Dr. Touret also announced that there were 4 applicants to host the M&M6 in 2008: St.Petersburg/Russia (School of Mines and University), Lisbon/Portugal (University), and Denver/Colorado/USA (Colorado School of Mines). The IMA-CM will now write to each of the applicants during 2005 asking for more detailed information. A final decision will be made at the next CM Business Meeting during the IMA Conference in Kobe/Japan 2006. 

The M&M5 Report was followed by a very lively debate initiated by Federico Pezotti (Milan/Italy). Mr Pezotti, along with J.C. Boulliard (Paris/France) and Carlo Grammaccioli (Milan/Italy), made some rather critical comments about mineralogists who claim that there is a crisis in Mineralogical Museums. They also criticised those museums who answered this crisis by developing new gallery exhibitions which only showed a few aesthetic pieces and neglected the scientific content. Amde Djemai and Lydie Touret (Paris/France) both averred that there was a kind of evolution taking place in museums of natural history and that many institutions were being forced to move away from the traditional-style of museum exhibitions.

It was clear from the debate, that in the experience of many curators there are now two distinct groups of mineralogists/curators working in museums:

  1. Those from a scientific background who say, that scientific research in museums is still vitally important and that, despite the splitting of mineralogy in different fields, Museums should attempt to reflect the whole science and create science-based exhibitions that explain mineralogy to a wider public.
  2. Those from a more artistic/design background whose philosophy is to attract the public to museums by creating exhibitions that show off the beauty of minerals and by using only a few aesthetically pleasing specimens. This, they hope, will lead to greater awareness of mineralogy/geology.

It was also pointed out to the meeting that finance and resources play a very much greater role in deciding Museums exhibition and research policies. In some Museums, mineralogy or geology has to compete with a number of other subjects for money and staff to be allowed to undertake research and exhibition programmes. This can have an enormous effect on the type of exhibition a museum can put on.

It was announced the 2005 was to be World Year of Physics As part of this programme, The Paris School of Mines (Ecole des Mines de Paris) will put on a special exhibition entitled From Graphite to Carbon.

Stuart Mills (Melbourne/Australia) urged the meeting to make better provision for the inclusion of younger people in the work of museums and especially in mineralogy. He pointed out that it was vital to bring fresh blood to the subject of mineralogy and that by exciting the interest of children of high school age, we could perhaps persuade some of them to continue into mineralogy.

Terry Huizing (Cincinnati/USA) informed the meeting that the Dick Bideaux (Tucson/USA) has passed away. Dick was well known and well liked, especially among those who were lucky enough to visit the Tucson show.

As always, the SMMP meeting provided an opportunity to collect subscriptions/dues as well as signing up new members. To that end, I would like to extend a warm and hearty greeting to our two new members, Gilla Simon from Munich and Gisela Lentz from Kiel.

The next meeting will be held on Friday 28th October 2005 at 16:30. I extend an open invitation to all members of SMMP as well as Museum Curators who expect to visit the Munich Mineral Show. Details of the meeting will be given nearer the time.

I would like to thank all the participants of the 2004 meeting. It was a pity that in the short time available we were unable to develop the debate on Is there a crisis in Mineralogy? further. I especially would like to thank Lydie Touret for chairing the meeting and providing her report on M&M5. I would also like to thank Kay Schrmann for help with the arrangements, for keeping the minutes (on which this report is based) and for keeping the meeting bowling along in his usual inimitable style. Finally, I would like to thank Johannes and Hermi Keilmann for the free use of the meeting room.

Peter Davidson
24th January 2005


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