After being on display for two decades at the AM, the Chapman Collection is about to embark on a journey to regional NSW. The Collection is home to hundreds of perfectly formed and beautiful crystals; delightful displays of light, colour and chemical diversity.
It’s days before Christmas in 1995 and a delighted Ross Pogson and his helpers are feverishly packing the extensive Chapman Collection into boxes. With the unfortunate closure of the Geological and Mining Museum in the Rocks, the precious specimens were being transferred to the Australian Museum to grace its galleries.
Concerned about the Collection’s safety over the holiday period, Ross and a group of dedicated volunteers packed the collection in little over a week and delivered it safe into the arms of the AM. Following such a herculean effort Ross was promoted the following year. Little did he know that two decades later he would be painstakingly packing each specimen once more for an even bigger journey.
Albert Chapman was born in 1912 and trained as a cabinet maker. His true passion, however, was minerals and he spent a life gathering the finest quality specimens from not only Australia but all over the world. He built up a sizeable collection, kept mostly in two hand-crafted wooden cabinets lined with gorgeous green velvet. Chapman and the AM had a long-standing relationship, and he would often purchase high-quality gems and fossils on the AM's behalf. In fact, Chapman purchased on the AMs behalf one of the 200 treasures currently exhibited in the Westpac Long Gallery, a vibrantly coloured log of petrified wood. He also obtained an amethyst covered sparkling geode in the foyer of the mineral gallery.
The extensive Chapman Collection is embarking on a journey to the Australian Fossil and Mineral Museum in Bathurst, which currently houses the Sommerville Collection. The temporary unification of these two collections means that combined, it will be the largest mineral collection in Australia and most probably the most significant collection of valuable and rare minerals in the southern hemisphere. Both Warren Somerville and Albert Chapman shared a love of collecting minerals and were well acquainted in life. The unification of these two collections is particularly apt, symbolising the reunion of two old friends. The Australian Museum looks forward to the collection returning to our museum after Project Discover is complete.
Warren Somerville grew up in the Orange area, and in the footsteps of Chapman was an avid mineral collector himself. Chapman met Somerville in the 1960s while he was studying mineralogy, and he urged Somerville to create a mineralogical and fossil museum on his orchard property. The two travelled together overseas and around Australia on the hunt for the perfect specimens, and Somerville credits Chapman with teaching him a great deal on establishing and maintaining a high-quality mineral connection.
For a chance to see the largest mineral collection in Australia, keep an eye out for the exhibition opening in early June in Bathurst. As for Ross, he’s on a deadline to carefully pack each specimen once again, encasing them in nests of tissue paper in bespoke boxes to ensure they arrive in one piece for your viewing.
Emma Flannery (Science Communicator AMRI)