June 22, 2012 | Lynn Rosendale
Bruce Dice believes his mineral collection is a tribute to the artist that created the exquisite pieces: “When you see the beautiful things that God has created, you want to keep them in front of you and delight in them,” said Dice. “When you see the collection, the beauty of it, it says something to you. It can really add something to your life.”
That’s what amassing this unique group of specimens has done for Dice, and he’s ready to share the collection with the Calvin College community.
A 1948 alumnus, Dice has been acquiring rare and beautiful pieces for the past 30 years. His collection, which numbers in the 300-plus range, will soon be on display in the Bruce Dice Mineralogical Museum, currently being built on Calvin’s campus, near the geology, geography and environmental studies department in North Hall.
“I decided it was time to share it,” said the 85-year-old geologist from Houston, Texas. “I have several pieces that the Houston Museum of Natural Science would have enjoyed having, but I went to the love of my life—Calvin College.”
Calvin was quick to accept the offer. “It’s a beautiful collection,” said Calvin geology professor Gerry Van Kooten, “and having it at Calvin is going to help the department at a variety of levels.”
Van Kooten expects that visitors will stop in and visit the museum as they might visit the art gallery: “These are beautiful natural pieces of art that everyone can enjoy,” he said.
One of Dice’s personal favorites is a large piece of calcite, a widely spread mineral, with this particular piece from Missouri. The specimen features seven different kinds of calcite in one three-feet-square rock. “I find this piece amazing,” said Dice. “It’s a very pretty piece.”
Another favorite is his piece of crocolite, which at one time was the biggest piece of this mineral on display anywhere. Mined in New Zealand, crocolite is a rare lead chromite mineral that forms bright orange crystals.
And his large clevelandite specimen recently won best of show at a recent Houston mineralogy convention.
Beyond the striking beauty though, the pieces will be educational for students, Van Kooten said. “It’s a great asset for classes,” he said. “From the introductory level to the advanced class in mineralogy, it will offer opportunity to study the shape and symmetry of the rocks.”
Dice is also hoping the collection will provide visibility to the geology department. “The geology department is a young, fully qualified department, but it’s been short -changed,” he said. “This will give the department and Calvin credibility because there are only two mineral museums in the state of Michigan and none in the west Michigan area,” he said.
Expected to open in October, the museum will showcase a portion of the collection, which will rotate over time. “This is going to be an active collection, not a dead one,” said Dice. “It will attract people on a regular basis because it will be changing.”
Dice plans to continue to add to the collection as well. In fact, his most recent addition is florescent minerals, which emit light when exposed to ultraviolet rays.
The museum will be uniquely suited to highlight various pieces of the collection. The darkened space will be mostly lit by lighting projected on the stones, said Phil Beezhold, director of Calvin’s physical plant. “We flew to Houston to see the mineralogical museum there to try to understand what a museum like this should be like, and we are trying to replicate it,” he said. “Seeing something like that definitely piques your interest in rocks.”
The museum will be open to the public and staffed by docents, who have been educated in Calvin’s Calvin Academy of Lifelong Learning (CALL) program. Geology students will also have the opportunity to work as docents.
“God has given me a wonderful life,” said Dice. “There have been some rocks along the way—it hasn’t always been a smooth road—but I’m still here today, and I’m still trying to do something to present some of God’s wonderful variations that exist in this earth.”
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