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Display and Storage

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Display and Storage

If you have many specimens, you may want to display your favorite pieces and store the rest. By keeping your collection clean and catalogued, it will be easy to rotate specimens on and off display, in and out of storage.

Displaying Your Specimens

[Plastic divided box with small mineral samples] There are many ways to organize your collection. You can organize it by color, size, or hardness. Or by species (tourmaline, quartz, beryl, etc.) or group (silicates, borates, carbonates, etc.) . These last two methods require knowing more about your specimens but solving the puzzle of their identities is part of the fun and adventure of collecting.

There are several ways to display your collection. Very small minerals may be kept in a plastic box with dividers (see photo). Another simple way to display your collection is on an open shelf, such as a bookshelf. Whatever you choose, there are a few things to keep in mind when selecting a location.

  • Place it low enough to view but high enough to keep out of the reach of small children or pets.
  • Make sure you have easy access to your display so it can be cleaned. Dust or spills can degrade or damage your samples.
  • If possible, select a location that is dry and airy. Exposure to dampness can degrade or damage your samples.
  • Select a spot large enough to comfortably space your samples. If you crowd your samples, softer minerals may be damaged by harder minerals.
  • Consider using box bottoms or lids as trays for your specimens. Boxes can help protect your specimen as well as the surface of your display area.
  • If you use boxes, use one for each sample. Select a size larger than the specimen so it won't hang over the edges. Pad the sides with tissue to keep the sample from shifting around. Don't use cotton balls or pads to line your boxes; the fibers may cling to your specimens.

You may wish to make small cards to display with each specimen, listing its name and where it was found.

Storing Your Specimens

[Top view of SDNHM tourmalines in storage.]If you have a large collection, it may not be practical to display all your specimens. You should store the rest of your collection to protect it from damage or loss. Boxes can be used to store your specimens. If you have the space, a drawer with box lids or trays can keep your stored specimens neatly arranged and easily accessible.

As with displaying your collection, you should keep a few things to keep in mind when selecting a place to store your specimens.

  • Select a location that's dry and clean. Exposure to salt air (common in coastal areas), dust, or moisture can damage or destroy your samples.
  • If possible, use boxes made of plastic or acid-free materials to prevent chemical reactions between the sample and it's container.
  • Keep small, fragile, or soft samples in individual or divided containers that are lined with tissue. An economical way to store small, fragile samples is in an egg carton.
  • Don't use cotton balls or pads to line your boxes. The fibers can cling to your specimens.

Remember to label your boxes and trays! On the outside of the box or on the tray, write the number of the specimen that is stored in it. For example: 001 should be on the box where specimen 001 is kept. This will help you find a specimen when you want it, and know where it belongs if you remove it from storage.


If you'd like to find out more about minerals and their properties or caring for a collection, these books are part of our list of Recommended Books on Mineralogy:

For more information about caring for a collection:

  • Rocks and Minerals (Eyewitness Handbooks) by Chris Pellant.
  • Rocks and Fossils (Nature Company Guide) by Arthur Bresnahan Busbey (Editor).
  • Start Collecting Rocks and Minerals by Leeann Srogi. This book is out of print, but may be available in the library or in used bookstores.

For more information about the chemical composition of minerals:

  • Rocks and Minerals (National Audubon Society First Field Guides) by Edward R. Ricciuti
    This book is easy to read and well organized, with large color photographs.
  • Simon and Schuster's Guide to Rocks and Minerals by Annibale Mottana, Rodolfo Crespi, and Giuseppe Liborio.
    For older readers. The minerals are grouped by chemical composition.

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