Mineralogy is the study of the physical, optical and chemical properties of natural crystalline structures. The Department of Mineralogy at Cleveland Museum of Natural History focuses its research around optical petrology, the interpretation of rocks through the identification of minerals by transmitted light microscopy. Projects include the origin of agates, description of sandstones of Northeastern Ohio, identification of building stones, elucidating glacial sand mineralogy, and the mineral composition of caddisfly mobile cases.
The department holds collections covering all inorganic crystalline materials that come from the earth (rocks and minerals) and outer space (meteorites and one moon rock). Perhaps more accurately described as a department of Earth material, it also houses collections of mineraloids (amber, opal, coal, etc.); synthetic industrial minerals (quartz, corundum, salts, etc.); economic ores (rocks used for industry); and Lapidary Arts (jewelry, cabochons, polished stones and faceted gemstones) of both natural and synthetic materials.
With more than 41,000 cataloged specimens or groups of specimens from around the world, the collections are historical as well as scientific. Some samples were collected as long ago as the early 1800s, and many of the ore deposit suites are from localities that no longer exist.
The Department of Mineralogy’s research laboratory and collections area are located off the main galleries on Level 2 across from the Discovery Center. They are open to public viewing through large glass doors that allow visitors to observe stunning mineral specimens native to Ohio and from around the world; volunteers sorting and cataloging specimens; and student researchers cutting, grinding, and analyzing the mineralogy of rock specimens with an Ultraphot polarizing microscope.
Through the Education Division, the Department of Mineralogy offers yearly programs that provide an opportunity for a more in-depth look at the discipline. Undergraduate students interested in a paid summer internship are encouraged to investigate the Kirtlandia Research Internship Program