Meteorites

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  • #617372

    I was down at the National History Museum in London last week.
    I am aware they house the largest meteorite collection in the world, but was disappointed only to find two in the museum on display.
    Despite asking where they might be housed no-one seemed able to help me.

    It’s probably just my naivety about how artefacts are cared for, but am I right in thinking they will be housed in the museum somewhere, but are just not on public display?

    I had a similar experience about 10 years ago. I went to Atlanta (having read a book by H. Povenmire on meteorites) and to a museum where they had the largest collection of Georgian tektites. After a bit of persistence they found where they were in the museum and showed me.
    I’m not trying to be a pain, but just am generally interested in where they might be.

    Gordon.

    #617375
    David C Rayment
    Participant

    Yes, the Natural History Museum(BM) has a superb collection of meteorites. Many years ago I was privileged to be able to view some of the stored specimens. A rare opportunity indeed. The NHM, however, is very much a working museum for scientific analysis and so most of the meteorite collection is not on display and cannot be accessed by the general public. There is however some information about meteorites on the museum website which you may find of interest if you haven’t read this already.

    #617376
    Dominic Ford
    Keymaster

    I think the problem is that meteorites need to be stored in tightly-controlled clean environments if they are to remain scientifically useful. It would be very costly to put a meteorite on public display without contaminating it. The NHM would be kicking themselves if they put a particular meteorite on display, only to discover they’d spoiled a specimen that subsequently turned out to be of scientific interest.

    This is a dilemma the NHM faces with other exhibits too. I remember my disappointment when I visited a few years ago, to discover they’d removed all the fossilised dinosaurs I remember gaping at as a kid. Of course, what I hadn’t realised as a kid was that original fossils are far too precious to mount for display, and so the ones I had gaped at were all rather dubious plaster models.

    #617387
    Alex Pratt
    Participant

    Hi Gordon,

    AS discussed, most meteorite specimens in the NHM are not on public display because they need to be maintained under controlled conditions of temperature and humidity. Also they are able to store their most valuable specimens in a dedicated lab facility with a controlled atmosphere, such as the Winchcombe meteorite. A nice example is on display:

    https://britastro.org/observations/observation.php?id=20210612_184807_7b10976de4db0fd7

    https://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/news/2021/may/winchcombe-meteorite-to-go-on-display-at-the-museum.html

    I visited The Vault last year and it is disappointing that few meteorites are available for public viewing.

    Alex.

    • This reply was modified 1 year ago by Alex Pratt.
    #617388

    Many thanks for all your replies.
    All makes perfect sense.

    I had hoped to see the Winchcombe meteorite but never found it there yet, but appreciate the link and all the links everyone sent.

    Best Wishes,
    Gordon

    Gordon.

    #617396
    Nick James
    Participant

    Yes, I was a bit disappointed on my last visit to the NHM although I did get to see Winchcombe which made up for the impression that there were fewer meteorites on display there than when I was a lad. While in Western Australia recently I visited the WA museum in Perth. They had a lot of meteorites there including a big chunk of the 22t Mundrabilla meteorite sitting in the weather outside by the bike racks. It would have taken some shifting if anyone had wanted to steal it.

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