Campus museum to display mineral magnificence

Alumnus-geologist donates collection


Fall 2012

Bruce Dice’s mineral collection is a tribute to the artist who 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 it 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, being built on Calvin’s campus near the geology 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 the museum will draw visitors, much like 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 3-foot-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 cleavelandite specimen recently won best of show at a 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 also hopes 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.”

Expected to open in October, the museum will showcase a portion of the collection and rotate its displays. “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 add to the collection. In fact, he recently acquired fluorescent minerals, which emit light when exposed to ultraviolet rays.

The museum will be uniquely suited to highlight various pieces of the collection. Lighting projected on the stones will illuminate the darkened space, 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 the Calvin Academy of Lifelong Learning (CALL) program. Geology students will 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.”

Source: News and Stories June 22, 2012