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Department of Mineral Sciences

Izalco Volcano
National Mineral Collection
Behind the scenes in the National Mineral Collection. Photo by Chip Clark.

The Department of Mineral Sciences maintains a world-class research collection of rocks, minerals and meteorites. Specimens from the research collection are available for loan to researchers, in most cases free of charge.

The research collection includes over 600,000 specimens. Highlights include:

  • Historically significant collections, including the Antarctic Meteorite Collection and many former USGS collections
  • Samples from difficult- or impossible-to-access locations and events, including historic eruptions, closed mines, and the seafloor
  • Rare or unusual rocks and minerals, including many mineral type specimens

Curious about our collections? Read more on the collections info page.

Finding what you're looking for

Mineral Sciences and NMNH provide several tools to search or browse our collections online:

Link Description
Mineral Sciences Collections Search Search the research collection by classification, locality, collection date, and more.
NMNH Geology Collections Data Portal (beta) Find and download data about the million-plus specimens in NMNH's Mineral Sciences and Paleobiology collections. Download data formatted for the ABCD (inclduing the geology-specific EFG extension) and Darwin Core data standards.
Smithsonian Antarctic Library View plane- and cross-polarized images of thin sections from the Smithsonian Antarctic Library, which includes slides for almost every meteorite collected by the Antarctic Meteorite Program.
Global Volcanism Program Browse samples collected from active volcanoes. Samples are listed on the profile page for a given volcano under the Smithsonian Samples tab (for an example, see Mt. St. Helens).

Don't know where to start? Can't find what you're looking for? Try contacting a collection manager. They can direct you to specimens you might have missed or arrange a visit so you can see the collection in person. They may also know about relevant specimens that have not yet been added to the collections database but are still available for loan.

Collection Collection Manager
National Gem Collection Russell Feather
National Meteorite Collection Julie Hoskin
National Mineral Collection Paul Pohwat
National Rock & Ore Collection Leslie Hale

Making a loan request

Once you've found a specimen you'd like to borrow, contact the appropriate collection manager to make a loan request. Loans to researchers are typically free of charge, and in many cases, we can provide material for destructive analysis.

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