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Teck Cominco Suite of Galleries: Earth's Treasures

TORONTO.- The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) unveils the Teck Cominco Suite of Galleries: Earth's Treasures on December 20, 2008, on Level 2 of the Weston Family Wing on December 20, 2008. Divided into the Vale Inco Limited Gallery of Minerals, the Gallery of Gems and Gold and the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame Gallery, the galleries occupy a combined total of 6,900 square feet and showcase the ROM’s exceptional specimens of minerals, gems, meteorites and rocks, a collection among the finest in North America. The fascinating displays are contextualized by over 40 interactive touch screen stations, compelling video exhibits and engrossing information on Canada’s mining industry.

“This highly-anticipated home for the ROM’s mineral collections contains almost twice as many specimens as in the last gallery,” said William Thorsell, ROM Director and CEO. “The engaging, interactive spaces will surprise and fascinate anyone curious about the treasures of our natural world.”

Donald R. Lindsay, President and CEO of Teck Cominco Limited and member of the ROM's Board of Governors, stated, “As a proud Canadian mining company, we believe in the importance of understanding our natural resources. Everything we use in our daily lives actually comes from only two sources: it is either grown and harvested or it is mined from the Earth. The Teck Cominco Suite of Galleries will help people learn more about the key minerals that support their lives. We are pleased to assist the ROM to present this suite of galleries, fostering further appreciation of the world around us as well as an important Canadian industry.”

The Vale Inco Limited Gallery of Minerals, the largest of the Teck Cominco Suite of Galleries, occupies 6,098 square feet and presents approximately 2,300 minerals, meteorites and rocks, exploring such areas as the classification of minerals, their physical and scientific properties, causes of mineral colour and the geological environments necessary for mineral growth. This gallery features the ROM’s renowned meteorite collection, including one of the biggest lunar meteorites on display in the world.

“Understanding the complexities of minerals and mining has never been made so clear or fascinating as in the Teck Cominco Suite of Galleries,” said Dr. Kim Tait, ROM Associate Curator of Mineralogy. “The complex ‘recipes’ that make up gems and minerals are broken down and explained. Whether our visitors are interested in industry, chemistry, gemmology or simply appreciate amazing shapes and colours, the Teck Cominco Suite of Galleries will appeal to them all.”

On entering the Vale Inco Limited Gallery of Minerals, along the northeast side of the gallery, a display details what minerals are, how they form and the classic localities around the world famous for exceptional mineral growth. Visitors will learn that minerals form over a wide range of temperatures, pressures and environments, some crystallizing from extremely hot magma deep within the Earth, from volcanic gases and from watery solutions. Each variety of crystal needs a special confluence of circumstances in order to grow. Amethyst, the highly-prized purple variety of the mineral quartz, is displayed as an example of how this particular mineral grew as well-formed crystals lining cavities found in 130 million-year-old volcanic rocks from southern Brazil. The gallery also explores the conditions necessary for significant crystal growth and the localities famous for mineral growth. Minerals mined from these regions are displayed, including a prehnite specimen from the Jeffrey Mine in Quebec’s Shipton Township. This particular area is also famous for deposits of the beautiful grossular crystal, a variety of garnet.

Along the gallery’s western wall, a section devoted to systematic mineralogy explains how elements form a myriad of combinations, resulting in over 4,000 known species which are classified according to their chemistry and crystal structure (arrangement of atoms). The physical properties that mineralogists and geologists use to identify minerals, such as hardness, transparency, and lustre, are also explained. This detailed classification of minerals is necessary because widely different species sometimes have the same chemical composition. For example, graphite, one of the softest substances on Earth, consists of the same elements as diamond, the hardest naturally-formed substance. This area displays many surprising and unusual specimens, such as rutile, a golden mineral with needles positioned in six-ray stars. Minerals can also be classified by colour and the southeastern portion of the Vale Inco Gallery describes how a crystal’s hue is determined by how it absorbs or removes parts of the visible spectrum of colour. It is often impurities or tiny defects within crystals that cause their rich colour, without which they would appear to be colourless. Another display illustrates that certain minerals appear to glow in a variety of colours when exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light.

The northwest corner of the gallery is devoted to the ROM’s excellent meteorite collection, including over 100 different specimens. Visitors will learn how they are formed, some from collisions between asteroids over 4.5 billion years ago, and others from fragments of the Moon or Mars. These oddities from outer space reveal the chemical building blocks that made up our universe and the history of our own solar system. Highlights include the Tagish Lake meteorite, the only specimen of its kind on display in the world, which may contain trapped nanocrystals of diamonds formed in a star that predated our Sun. A meteorite from Mars, the largest in the ROM’s collection, is one of only approximately 38 known Martian meteorites. Also showcased is the fourth largest lunar meteorite in existence in the world. This recent acquisition, weighing 1.1 kilograms and courtesy of the Louise Hawley Stone Trust, has never been on public display.

The gallery’s central walkway leading to the Gallery of Gems and Gold is lined with some of the ROM’s largest and most impressive mineral specimens. Included amongst these is a sandstone formation, known colloquially as a “gogotte”. This bizarre natural structure is an example of concretions which occur in 30 million-year-old sands left by an ancient river system in what is now the Paris Basin in France. The bulbous shapes created by sand cemented into place by silica results in a rock formation that looks oddly organic.

The Gallery of Gems and Gold, located in the southeast corner of the Teck Cominco Suite of Galleries, is an 800-square-foot room specially-designed to highlight gems, crystals and precious metals. The gallery’s inaugural exhibition is Light & Stone: Gems from the Collection of Michael Scott, featuring over 200 specimens of precious stones, gem crystals, jewellery and gem artworks. Arguably the most important private collection in North America, the Michael Scott Collection has few rivals in the world, outside of the royal families. These breathtaking and unmatched specimens are part of the ROM’s A Season of Gems and will be on display from December 20, 2008 until mid-December 2009.

Among the exhibition’s highlights is a 9,000-carat carved quartz sculpture entitled Repose, depicting a nude male youth with a drape made of 18 karat gold over his lap. A spectacular tiara entitled Queen of Kilimanjaro, featuring the world’s largest faceted tanzanite (242 carats) encircled by hundreds of rare garnets and diamonds will dazzle visitors. An immense 485,461-carat (100 kilogram) quartz sculpture entitled Metamorphos, believed to be the world’s largest faceted gemstone, is also featured.

In the southwest corner of the Teck Cominco Suite of Galleries, the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame Gallery showcases the importance of the mining industry in our everyday lives and highlights the exceptional contributions of Canadians to this industry. A 15-foot-by-6-foot fully bilingual, interactive video wall controlled by two computer kiosks located in front, dominates this area. Divided into two sections, the left side portrays the biographies and personal stories of 137 Canadian Mining Hall of Fame inductees where visitors can search profiles. As more Canadians are annually inducted into the Hall, their profiles will be added to the ROM’s comprehensive display. On the right of the screen, a presentation explains how mining touches every part of our lives and short videos explore a variety of minerals such as silver, titanium and zinc. Visitors will learn that the average Canadian uses over 20,000 kg of minerals annually, and that Canada is an international leader in mining, producing and exporting a wide variety of minerals, metals, and mineral-based products. The wall also depicts a map of Canada as well as fast-facts about the mining industry. Another adjacent screen presents a video about mining in the 21st century, including depictions of the latest modern-day mining techniques. This area also features ore specimens mined from various Canadian localities.

The openings of the Teck Cominco Suite of Galleries and the Light & Stone exhibition are part of the ROM’s A Season of Gems, which also includes The Nature of Diamonds, presented by De Beers Canada. This most wide-ranging exhibition ever developed on the allure of diamonds, appears from Saturday, October 25, 2008 to Sunday, March 22, 2009 in the Garfield Weston Exhibition Hall, located on Level B2 in the ROM’s Michael Lee-Chin Crystal.

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