Get Visual: Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History

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Is Mother Nature an artist? That question came to mind as I perused the mind-blowing collection of minerals at Yale University’s Peabody Museum of Natural History in New Haven on a recent road trip.

A natural sandstone concretion from France that is about 5 feet wide
Photo by Robert Blake

My old friend Rob, a rock hound and certified gemologist guided me on this trip and assured that this collection is truly dazzling even to an expert (he grew up near Harvard, which has a similarly impressive collection, but he said the Peabody’s outshines Harvard’s).

A stunning specimen of pure gold found in California
Photo by Robert Blake

To rank amateur me, the outstanding impression was of sculptural brilliance. Sure, the collectors who pay a king’s ransom to own such specimens are as affected by aesthetic concerns as anyone, but they’re still gathering objects that came from nature, not an artist’s studio. Though there’s no individual creator making these objects – just chemistry plus time – the results are no less visually exciting than a carefully executed sculpture. After all, who wouldn’t be pleased to display the large specimen of beryl with albite from Pakistan shown at right, above, on a nice pedestal in their living room?

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