Geosciences Suite Showcases ‘Nature’s Art’
Remodeled Gems and Mineral Displays Present Striking Examples of Stones
April 3, 2009
Associate Professor Emeritus James L. Carter is a blur these days. Students and staff often spot him deftly maneuvering through hundreds of beautiful gems and minerals on display at UT Dallas.
Dr. Carter, who retired in 2007 after 43 years at UT Dallas, is hard at work, constantly putting new touches to a gems and minerals masterpiece. The crowning jewel of Carter’s recent efforts is a display design that rivals the elegance and ambiance of a high-end jewelry store.
Housed in the Department of Geosciences suite, the more than 80 specimens on display depict a broad range of properties and beauty in stones from around the world. These stones represent only a portion of the department’s overall collection of several thousand specimens. Current space limitations prevent displaying more of the collection.
In 1985, when Carter was head of geosciences, the family of John D. and Eva Watson Williamson donated the bulk of the collection on display. That collection augmented the stones already on display courtesy of the Zale Corp.
Carter has spent countless hours selecting proper lighting, labeling samples and designing an ingenious display system that allows viewers to observe the gems and minerals from 360 degrees. The stones are housed on shelves in clear plastic cases. They are elevated on clear plastic pedestals, lit from track lighting and backed with mirrors. Casual observers may consider the mirrors a nice aesthetic touch, but Carter said the reason for the mirrors goes back to his childhood.
“As a kid, it always bothered me to look at a rock and not be able to see the back of it,” Carter said. “The mirrors allow us to see the front and back of the stone at the same time. And the mirrors help someone walk up to the display cases and feel drawn inside the beauty of the stones themselves. You can begin to appreciate nature and the rarity of such pieces. These pieces are very aesthetically pleasing. They’re nature’s art.”
The gems and minerals collection at UT Dallas also includes the outdoor Rock Garden located north of the Founders Building along with fossils and other materials in cases housed within the Founder’s North Building.
Limited public viewing of the collection is welcome at the Department of Geosciences. The collection is on the second floor of the Founder’s Annex Building in FA 3.102, between Founders and Berkner. Please contact the department for further information: 972-883-2401.
Above: Dr. James L. Carter showcases a specimen of dioptase, a copper mineral, from the Tsumeb Mine in the Republic of Namibia, Africa.
Below: The stones on display represent only a portion of the Geoscience Department’s overall collection of several thousand specimens.
About Dr. Carter
Dr. James L. Carter is world-renowned for his expertise in “simulated lunar regolith,” virtually indistinguishable from moon dirt. He is NASA's expert on call when the space agency needs artificial moon dirt. Dr. Carter is also known for helping discover the remains of an alamosaurus in Big Bend National Park.