Redefining the Classroom

Lifelong mineral collection goes on display

Posted: October 16th, 2004

October 15, 2004
STRIKING IT RICH – Lake Superior State University Geology Senior Kelsey Anderson, of Saugatuck, Mich., holds a dedication plaque for the Lawrence Robinson Mineral Collection with LSSU Curator Mary St. Antoine. They have set up the first in a series of displays of the 1000-piece collection, to be rotated with fresh specimens roughly every six months. The display area is located outside of LSSU’s planetarium for public viewing whenever Crawford Hall of Science is open. (LSSU photo by John Shibley)

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. – For most of his 92-year life, Petoskey resident Lawrence Robinson worked for the U.S. Postal Service and pursued a passion for rock hounding. Now, thanks to an agreement between his estate, Lake Superior State University, and the Raven Hill Discovery Center in downstate East Jordan, Robinson’s 1,000-specimen collection of Michigan minerals will be enjoyed by the public and foster undergraduate research for many years to come.

The Lawrence Robinson Mineral Collection is a myriad of rare rocks, minerals, and fossils from Michigan. Its variety of fossilized coral called Hexagonaria (typically referred to as “Petoskey Stone”) weighs several hundred pounds. Upper Peninsula minerals include barite, hematite, magnetite and goethite from the Marquette Area Iron District. Minerals from the Keweenaw’s Copper Country are also well represented, with varieties of copper and silver, thanks to Robinson’s extensive mining company connections, and many specimens of datolite and Lake Superior agates. Assorted gems and crystals round out the collection, the most notable of which are a diamond, garnets, beryl (emeralds) and corundum (rubies), and tourmaline.

The Robinson collection is too large to display in one location, so portions are rotated between LSSU and a display area at the Raven Hill Discovery Center. Even then it might take years for the collection’s entirety to be revealed to the public.

The collection is also available to LSSU students for non-destructive undergraduate research. Results from some of these studies, depending on the topic, are presented at regional or national professional conferences. All are presented to LSSU geology faculty during the spring semester.

LSSU will display its portion of the collection in a bank of renovated, lighted display cases in Crawford Hall of Science. The area, located just outside of the Ben Long Planetarium, is open seven days a week well into the evening hours during the school year.

The display was set up this past summer by LSSU laboratory technician Mary St. Antoine, who also serves as curator for the collection at LSSU. She was helped by student Kelsey Anderson, a senior majoring in geology from Saugatuck, Michigan. Though LSSU formally came into the collection last fall, Mr. Robinson initially approached LSSU about donating his collection in 2002.

“It’s rather amusing,” recalls Associate Provost Michael Donovan. “We actually hooked up with Larry Robinson through a mutual acquaintance unrelated to geology.” Donovan was dean of the School of Natural and Health Sciences at the time.

“He was having trouble finding an institution that would both agree to keep the collection together and share it with the Raven Hill Discovery Center,” adds Donovan. “After I saw how remarkable the collection was, how could we refuse?”

Sadly, Robinson passed away last year before arrangements could be worked out. His estate finalized the donation this past spring.

LSSU’s acquisition of Robinson’s collection dovetails nicely with an ongoing effort to enhance the Kemp Mineral Resources Museum, named in honor of LSSU Professor Emeritus Ernie Kemp. The Kemp Museum boasts its own extensive collection, and efforts are underway to house it in dedicated exhibit facilities in Crawford Hall. A main gallery will feature interpretive displays about the impact of Earth’s mineral resources on human society and its growth. Currently, one of the museum’s cornerstone programs fosters educational outreach opportunities between area schools and LSSU.

For information about the Kemp Mineral Museum enhancement campaign, contact LSSU’s Foundation Office at 906/635-2665 or Geology Professor Emeritus and Museum Curator David Knowles at 906/632-9537.

Contact LSSU’s Geology Department at 906/635-2267 to arrange educational field trips to the Robinson Collection and/or the Kemp Mineral Resources Museum. The Raven Hill Discovery Center in East Jordan, Michigan, can be reached at 231/536-3369.