|Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems
President of Carnegie Institute James M. Walton spoke with one of
Pittsburgh’s most prominent businessmen, Henry L. Hillman, about
the early stages of a capital campaign fund. Their discussion centered
on the steps to be taken to upgrade the existing exhibits and the
program areas where new exhibits could be introduced to enhance
Carnegie Museum of Natural History.
Mr. Hillman, a
trustee of the museum, is a lifelong Pittsburgher. He earned a degree
in geology from Princeton, and at the time of his discussion with
Walton was serving as the executive officer in the family business
started by his father. He recalls that he had gone to see a commercial
display of minerals that was presented at a Pittsburgh department
store. He was impressed by the number of people who were attracted
to and fascinated by the mineral specimens. With this experience in
mind he expressed to Walton an interest in supporting a new mineral
exhibit designed to present "minerals in the manner of sculpture
and shown for their beauty as well as physical properties and economic
For the next decade,
the generosity of Henry L. Hillman and The Hillman Foundation, Inc.
made it possible for Carnegie Museum of Natural History to acquire
exhibit-quality specimens for the new hall. Delbert Oswald, working
in the mineral section at that time, became Associate Curator and
devoted full attention to enhancing the mineral exhibit collection
and developing the hall. In the early 1970s, during the first few
years of this effort, the noted mineralogist Dr. Frederick H. Pough
was retained as a consultant to assist Oswald.
The mineral section
of the museum became increasingly active and gradually took on a new
autonomy within the museum. Not only did The Hillman Foundation provide
funds through a capital fund grant for the renovation of space allocated
to the new mineral hall, it also provided funds for a specimen acquisition
program. A masterpiece pegmatite assemblage from the Little Three
mine in California and a 70-gram platinum nugget from the Soviet Union
were purchased at this time, as was what is very likely the world’s
largest single crystal of rutile, a 24-pound mirror-faced specimen
from Graves Mountain, Georgia.
by The Hillman Foundation, the museum acquired a 19-piece gold
collection from the Harvard Mineralogical Museum and the Dr.
H. Pough gem collection of nearly 800 specimens. The Pough Gem
Collection represents over thirty years of personal selection
and is 50% comprised of rare and highly unusual gem species.
Many of the gems currently on display in Wertz Gallery of Hillman
Hall are from the Pough Collection.
with the increase in purchased accessions, the mineral section
witnessed an increase in donor interest, which brought in many
new specimens suitable for exhibition in the mineral and gem hall.
The J. Allen Thiel and J. P. Gills Rough and Cut gem collections
were donated, as were the collection’s finest Brazilian
aquamarine crystal and its finest bejeweled aquamarine and diamond
After eleven years
of specimen acquisition, planning, and construction, Hillman Hall
of Minerals & Gems opened in September of 1980. The concept of
presenting mineral specimens as sculptures was adhered to, and the
beautifully designed exhibit hall provides a basic understanding and
appreciation of minerals—scientifically, educationally, and
from the museum shortly thereafter, and for several years the mineral
section and its exhibit hall were directly under the auspices of
Mary R. Dawson, PhD, Vertebrate Paleontologist and Chief Curator of Earth
Sciences. In 1982 geologist Richard A. Souza was hired to oversee
the mineral section’s exhibition and education programs and
the management of some 23,000 specimens. During the eight years that
followed, Collection Manager Souza worked closely with Ronald W. Wertz,
President of The Hillman Foundation, to develop one of the most active
and successful specimen acquisition programs of any major natural
history museum in North America. The goal was to acquire some of the
world’s finest specimens in a variety of species while also
filling in species and locality voids and significantly upgrading
the other species on exhibit.
1987 The Hillman Foundation worked with Carnegie Museum of
Natural History to establish The Carnegie
Mineralogical Award. This national award is given annually
at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show to an honored recipient in
recognition of outstanding contributions that have promoted mineralogical
preservation, conservation, and education—the ideals embodied
in the Carnegie’s Hillman Hall of Minerals & Gems.
vitalized the mineral section’s programs. In 1988 Carnegie Institute
President Robert C. Wilburn and the Trustees launched the Second
Century Fund campaign with a goal of $125 million. As part of its
contribution to this fund, The Hillman Foundation established an endowment
for Hillman Hall of Minerals & Gems to provide for continuing
improvement of and operating support for the mineral program. This
contribution also provided funding for a mineral conservation and
preservation laboratory and a permanent curatorial position.
Also that year
portions of all eight meteorites that have ever been found in Pennsylvania
were displayed for the first time in Hillman Hall. For more information
on Pennsylvania meteorites click