General Information and History

History of the mineralogy collections


Quartz crystals (rock crystal, Bergkristall) from the Zinggenstock, Grimsel area, Canton Bern, Switzerland. Found in 1719 and given to the library of Bern on February 15, 1721, these crystals are the oldest collection specimens of the Museum. The largest crystal in the picture above is 55 cm tall

The origin of the mineralogy collections of the Natural History Museum Bern can be traced back to at least 1721, when three large quartz crystals from the Zinggenstock (Grimsel area, Bernese Oberland) were given to the Library of Bern.
The first important collection integrated was that of Gabriel Albrecht von Erlach (1739-1802) who sold his collection to the Helvetic republic in order to be able to pay war taxes. This collection was later given to the City of Bern. When the museum was officially founded in 1832 (still at the Library location) it inherited the earth science collections of the City Library.
The mineralogy-petrography collections grew strongly in the years of 1869 to 1887, mostly due to donations by a few individuals and their heirs: Friedrich Bürki-Marcuard (1819-1880), Edmund von Fellenberg (1838-1902), Anton Gottlieb Simon (1780-1855) and Bernhard Rudolf Studer (1794-1887).
The history of the collections has been reviewed in detail by Stalder (1982 a,b).

History of the paleontology collections

Cretaceous ammonite, Châtel St. Denis, Canton of Fribourg

The oldest fossil objects date back to at least 1803, when the collection of D. Sprüngli was given to the museum. The collection grew through the collecting activities of the curator B. Studer and the donation by C. Brunner in the first half of the 19th century. Very important is the extensive collection of the private scientist W.A.Ooster, mainly consisting of rare fossils from the Swiss Alps. This collection was given to the museum in 1868. Other collections and important single objects were donated by F.L. Koby, O. Hug, J. Uhlmann, F. Bürki-Marcuard, B. Hostettler, A. Klee, W. Bühler, Dr. med. H. Dreifuss (Collection of Trilobites) or acquisited from J. Wegmüller (Collection of teeth of Chondrichthyes).
The excavations and collecting activities of the curators Ed. Gerber and Th. Pfister from 1907 to 1996 have furnished much well documented material, mainly from the Upper Marine Molasse (Burdigalian) of Switzerland.

Curators (department heads) of the NMBE Earth Science collections

You may be interested in the names, fields of interest and terms of responsibility of the curators responsible for the Earth Science Collections during the past 200 years. This information may facilitate historical searches and helps to explain why specific collection areas developed in certain periods.

- Jakob Samuel Wyttenbach (1748-1830) >
Took care of collection in library's gallery, first president of the board of trustees
- Daniel Rätzer (1770-1808) Mineralogist, first curator 1802-1808
- Bernhard Rudolf Studer (1794-1887) Curator (part time) ±1820-±1870
Professor of Geology, Bern University
- Isidor Bachmann (1837-1884) Curator (part time) 1871-1884
Professor of Geology, Bern University
- Richard Armin Baltzer (1842-1913) Curator (part time) 1884-1889
Professor of Geology, Bern University (Aare massiv, Central Alps)
- Edmund v. Fellenberg (1838-1902) Curator (part time) 1889-1902
Mine ingeneer, Alpinist, Alpine Geologist (Saxony, Central Alps)
- Ernst Kissling (1865-1936) Curator (part time) 1902-1907
Oil geologist
- Eduard Gerber (1876-1956) Curator (part time) 1907-1956
Gymnasium teacher, geologist (Geology and palaeontology of the Canton Bern)
- Hans Adrian (1890-1979) Curator (part time) 1956-1962
Oil geologist, teacher. (Mexico, Canton of Bern)
- Hans Anton Stalder (*1925) Curator 1962-1990
Mineralogist, Honorary Professor University of Bern (Alpine fissure minerals, Grimsel area, fluid inclusions, topographic mineralogy, systematic mineralogy)
- Beda Anton Hofmann (*1960) Curator since 1990
Mineralogist (mineralogy and geochemistry of rare element mineralizations, meteorites, geomicrobiology, microbial fossilization, astrobiology)

The Lengenbach mineral locality, Valais, Switzerland

The NMBE has been involved in the exploitation of the Lengenbach sulfosalt occurrence in the Binntal, Canton Wallis, Swiss Alps, between 1958 and 1998 as partner of the Lengenbach syndicate (Arbeitsgemeinschaft Lengenbach). This involvement ended officially on the first of June 1998. Since this time, exploitation is continuing by another organization, the "Interessengemeinschaft Lengenbach".
The Lengenbach quarry is known for its wealth of rare minerals for more than 200 years. It is operated every summer since 1958 for the winning of rare minerals. The NMBE has an important collection of Lengenbach minerals and has actively contributed to research on the origin of this unique mineral deposit.

A comprehensive bibliography of Lengenbach-related papers compiled by Ralph Cannon can be found here.

Detailed information about the Lengenbach can be found on it's official website www.georama.ch